Quantum Xander 2
In Wake of the Curse


by
Jameschick



Part Twenty-Six

Xander was dangling from the large wheel. The large wheel that Spike had been hung from once before. The large wheel that was at this moment hanging over the satanic manhole cover he and the girls had buried not too long ago.

"And how did you get yourself into this one, Xan man?"

Xander sighed as he remembered how that had happened. He had left Buffy's place after the realisation of his bond with Spike. He wandered for awhile, eventually went home and unplugged the phone and crawled into bed.

When he woke up, he decided to just ignore all things hellmouthy and have one normal day. So he went to the building supply store - they were putting on a demonstration that sounded interesting.

He had a conversation with an attractive woman over rope, and being the nice guy that he was, he offered to help her string up her kayak. Next thing he knew - he was the kayak. This was ridiculous; if he had still been under Willow's spell he probably would have been dating the nice demon lady by now.

The nice demon lady who had stuck a knife in his belly. He was never more happy in his life to see Spike and Buffy - even if they did bring her boss along. And what the hell was up with that?

Of course the seal had to start opening at that very moment. Buffy was fighting with Lissa - the demon lady - and so was Spike. She was tough. The principal was cutting him loose, and even through his pain and confusion he worried about Spike. He had been knocked for a loop by Xander's abductor.

Buffy and Lissa struggled over a sword before Buffy got a hold of it and beheaded her. Xander watched as she went to Spike and crouched down beside him. As she held his hand, he watched Spike look at her, his love laid bare to her eyes. Of course she immediately got up and came toward him and her boss.

"Hey, Buff. What's this? Bringing your work home with you?"

Before she had a chance to answer, Spike broke in.

"She was on a date - they were on a date."

"Oh."

It was the only thing he could think to say. It was obvious that Spike was hurting but that he was trying not to show it. So Xander just shrugged and asked her if it was going better than his was.

"You... you were on a date too?"

Spike looked about the room incredulously.

"Bleedin’ hell, what is it with you and demon women?"

Spike stalked toward the door and Xander hurriedly caught up to him.

"I wasn't on a date. I went to a demonstration at the building supply store this morning, and met Lissa - the demon. I didn't know she was a demon; she was looking at rope and I asked if she needed help. Long story short - I offered to help her string up her kayak and woke up here. Tied to that. Not a fun experience."

"Yeah, I remember. So, not a date?"

"No. Definitely not a date."

The drive back to the Summers' house was pretty quiet. Xander didn't much care for the looks that Buffy's boss kept giving Spike, but he figured he'd let it alone for now. He hadn't turned up anything suspicious on the man so he was willing to give him the benefit of the doubt.

Back at the house, everyone was quiet. Buffy and Spike weren't talking to each other - hell they weren't even looking at each other. Tara and Dawn were in the kitchen making tea and Giles was talking to the new girl - she spoke Chinese and they weren't exactly understanding one another. Willow made a crack about Xander always attracting demon women and Xander bit his lip to keep from yelling at her. He wanted to tell her that he knew exactly why that was, that he was more powerful than she could even imagine, that he wouldn't be in this predicament if it wasn't for her interference in his life. But then he saw a chance to lighten the mood and went with that instead. Everyone looked as though they could use a bit of a laugh. It was time to be the zeppo.

"Yeah, you’re right. What is it with me and demon women? That's it. I've made a decision. I'm going gay. I've decided to turn gay. Willow, gay me up."

Willow looked at Xander like he had just asked her to turn him into a frog.

"What?"

"You heard me. Just tell me what to do. I'm mentally undressing Scott Bakula right now. That's a start, isn't it?"

Spike snickered from his spot in the corner and even Buffy smiled.

"Come on, let's get this gay show on the gay road. Help me out here."

Buffy giggled at him.

"What if you start attracting male demons?"

Dawn laughed too, an impish smile crossing her face.

"Yeah, Clem always liked you. Or hey, you could always hook up with Spike now that he's not with Buffy anymore."

Buffy glared at Dawn, and Spike and Xander both looked away from each other. Giles cleared his throat to interrupt but was cut off as Xander began talking again.

"I'd need some stylish new clothes..."

He knew he was on the verge of a major babble and was actually thankful when Giles yelled at them to shut up. Okay, yeah, so they were all in danger and it really was no laughing matter but they weren't kids anymore; they understood what was going on.

Later on, as Xander sat alone in his darkened living room, he heard the door open and then a moment later Spike sat down next to him.

"Anyone fill you in on what's been happening?"

"Yeah, the First, blah blah yadda yadda."

"I talked to Buffy, offered to go."

"You what?"

Xander could feel the panic rising in his chest. He couldn't do this. Not again. It was bad enough that he had unwittingly bound himself to this version of his mate, but to lose him now, as well?

"Why? Spike, you can't."

"I'm not, I won't. Slayer asked me to stay."

"Good."

Xander let out a relieved sigh. He was glad Spike wasn't leaving, but he was also a bit angry that he was only staying for Buffy. Would he have still gone if he were the only one to ask him not to?

"Spike? What about me? I mean... If I had asked you to stay would you still have left?"

"I dunno, Xander." Spike tilted his head back and closed his eyes. He didn't want to do this, but he had to. He owed Xander the truth.

"I arsed things up here, between us. What happened in the bathroom, it was more than just a suck and grope session, pet. That bite? It meant something - means something. You're mine, Xan. As much as you’re his, you're mine now, too."

Spike didn't open his eyes; he didn't want to see Xander's face when he realised what he had done to him. He swallowed and then carried on so softly that Xander almost missed what he said next.

"Just as I'm yours."





Part Twenty-Seven

"You're mine?"

Xander tilted his head as he looked at Spike. Yeah, he knew it was a two way street, he just didn't know how Spike knew. He wasn't sure he wanted to know.

"Yeah, but you knew that. These things are never one-sided. I could taste it the second time I bit you, in the Slayer's basement. I'm in your veins, Xander just like he is - just like you are in mine."

"I know."

"So, now what?"

"I don't know Spike. I don't know."

They sat in silence for a long time. Xander desperately trying to rationalise what he was feeling. He was mated to two Spikes. Two versions of the same vampire. One souled and one chipped. One here and one gone. One he missed desperately and one sitting right beside him. He was so confused. Hurt. He just wanted someone to tell him what was the right thing to do.

Finally, Xander decided that now was not the time to make any decisions; cooler heads would prevail in the morning. He wanted sleep. He wanted a break from his thoughts. He wanted someone to hold him.

"I'm going to bed. You coming?"

Spike was startled by the question and it showed clearly. Xander smiled and shook his head.

"Not for that. I'm tired, confused, I feel like my head just might explode and I want someone - I want you - to hold me."

Spike nodded and got to his feet. He could relate; he was confused as well, and his demon was looking forward to holding its mate - especially now that the blood bond was his own, not his by proxy.

"Right. That I can do."

There was no awkwardness as they shucked off jeans and t-shirts and climbed into bed. Spike opened his arms and Xander gratefully sank into his embrace. They were both in need of something they could only get from the other. Complete and total understanding. Spike didn't even blink when Xander brushed a light kiss across his lips; he just smiled and tightened his arms around him a little bit more. There was nothing sexual in the kiss or the way their bodies were intertwined. It was natural, comforting. Spike purred softly and felt Xander relax into sleep. He wasn't far behind him.

He was in Spike's arms again; the waves crashed against the shore and the salt air smelled wonderful and clean. He determined that he would take his vampire to the beach as soon as he got him back.

"I do love this place."

"Yeah, love. I know."

"I'm sorry."

"Shh, don't be. I know, I understand."

"You do? How? I don't even understand?"

"You need him, love. The bond draws you to him; he's me."

"The bond? Is that all it is, am I using him to try and replace you? God, I don't want that! I don't want to use him; he deserves more than that. You deserve more than that."

"It's not like that, Xan. I know you wouldn't do that to him, or to me. He's me, yeah? And you love me, right? So it was only a matter of time, pet. Whether I was with you or not, if you spent enough time with him this would have happened. You remember the other one? The one we took to our bed? If we'd have stayed there for awhile you would have felt it with him, too."

Xander relaxed back into Spike's arms. He was still unsure of what he was going to do as far as things with him and the Spike in his bed were concerned, but knowing that his Spike wasn't hurt by it, or angry with him, helped a lot.

"What about when you come back? What happens then?"

"We deal. Don't worry so much, love. Things will all work out in the end."

"I love you."

"I know, pet. I love you too."

"Spike?"

"Yeah, love?"

"How much do you know?"

"All of it."

"All of it?"

"Yes, pet. I know about the bite, the bond, the... what did you call it? Oh right, sort-of-sex. I know about that, too." Xander felt his heart breaking. He had done an unspeakable thing and he couldn't believe that Spike wasn't angry with him. Didn't he mean anything to him?

"Don't even think it, love. You mean everything to me. You're my everything, Xander. But why should I be angry? He obviously needs you. I know what that feels like. You gave me back my life - my sense of self worth - he needs someone to do the same for him. You are that someone." Spike kissed the side of Xander's neck - directly over the fresh scar.

"You may be the only one who can help him, Xander."

"But Buffy..."

"Is the slayer. She knows how to kill demons, love, not how to love them. And don't even bring Angel into this. If she had known what he was when they first met, she never would have fallen for him."

"He loves her."

"He loves you too."

"Not the same way."

"Give him time."

"I don't want to hurt her; she's my friend."

"But she doesn't love him, Xander. Not the way you could, if you'd let yourself."

Xander laughed. He shook his head and then laughed some more.

"I'm rationalising my own wants. It all makes sense now. I dream that you’re real, and you tell me it's okay to want Spike, to love Spike. That I can be with him without feeling guilty. It makes perfect sense now. I'm not going crazy, I'm already there."

"You're not crazy, love. I'm as real as a magically-linked, dusted vamp can be. Read the book, love. Find the poems, and believe me."

Xander woke with a start and opened his eyes. It was still dark in the room but he could see that the dawn would come soon. He gently slipped out of Spike's arms and rolled out of bed. He quietly took Spike's journal out of the bedside table drawer and made his way to the kitchen. After making a cup of coffee, he sat down and steadied himself. He opened the book, turned to the back and felt his eyes fill with tears. He read.

If my heart could beat,

it would pound in rhythm to your own.

If my breath could catch,

it would at the very sight of you.

Sable eyes and a gentle smile

pain deep in your soul that matches my own

you feel like a bit of heaven

a place I never dared hope to see.

for decades on, death was my art

blood my medium of choice.

I was a master, few could outdo me.

now I am nothing.

beaten and torn, pillaged and raped

a shadow of myself

my sense of self - non existent

I waited for oblivion

craved it

Then you, with one simple word

changed everything.

hope

'd almost forgotten

what it was to be myself

my life such as it was - restored

Still broken, I try to recover

I fail time and again

but you, you see through me

see who I am underneath it all

you love me - demon and all

why

I don't understand you

you make me feel things I shouldn't

things I couldn't

not before, not ever again

only you.

my Xander

my lover

my mate





Part Twenty-Eight

Spike woke alone. He sat up and fixed his senses on the rest of the apartment. He smelled coffee, tears, and Xander. He wearily got up and pulled on his jeans. He wondered what had set the young man off this time.

After getting himself a cup of coffee, Spike joined Xander in the living room. He noticed right off that he was holding his mate’s - his other mate’s - journal. At least he now knew the reasons for the tears.

"You okay, Xan?"

Xander shook his head and thrust the open book at Spike. The vampire just shrugged and took it. He'd already read it, so he wasn't too concerned about what he'd see. Then he noticed the poetry. With an audible groan, he read the words.

"Okay, so he wrote poetry. It's horrible poetry, hardly enough to bring tears to your eyes. Is it?" Xander laughed at the edge of uncertainty in Spike's voice and shook his head.

"No. It is awful, but it's the most beautiful thing I've ever read. He wrote it for me."

"So why the tears then?"

"Because the dreams are real."

"Dreams? What dreams?"

Xander took a deep, fortifying breath and told Spike everything. He told him how he could still be with his Spike in his dreams, that somehow, they were still linked even after Spike's dusting. He told him about the bite - how it had happened in his dream yet was there in the real world, too. Then without making eye contact, he told him about his conversation with his Spike last night. How he said it was only a matter of time before things progressed between them. When he finished, he kept his gaze averted from Spike. He wasn't sure what the vampire would feel after learning all that.

"Xander."

When Xander didn't look at him or even acknowledge that he'd been addressed, Spike spoke again.

"Look at me, love."

Xander looked up and saw Spike smiling at him. He was instantly relieved that Spike wasn't angry.

"He's probably right. Buffy's moving on with her life, she still needs me, yeah. But not the way I want her to. I love her. I probably always will, but I'm not stupid. I'm not going to keep throwing myself at her. She doesn't want me; she made that clear. You and me, well we're friends. Okay, obviously there's more to it then that, but I don't want to rush anything. If it's meant to happen, it will; but as long as we stay friends, that’s enough for me. I don't want to be a replacement; I know you don't want that either, but until we’re both sure that that isn't going to be an issue, I think it best if we spend some time apart."

Xander nodded. He was both worried and relieved at the same time. Relieved that Spike understood what he was feeling, and worried that he was going to avoid him.

"I'm going to go back to Buffy's house to stay for awhile. I think it's the safest solution - I don't know that I won't just give in to the demon’s demands to claim you physically, otherwise. You're too much of a temptation, especially sleeping right next to me."

"Yeah, I get that."

Xander chuckled as he noticed that his eyes had barely left Spike's mouth the entire time he had been talking. He had to restrain himself from kissing him. Time apart sounded like a good idea.

"I'm going to L.A. Will you cover for me with the gang?"

Spike looked taken aback and blinked in confusion.

"You don't have to go away, Xander. I have some self control, you know." Xander chuckled.

"It's not about you - us. Angelus is loose again. I need to go, but I don't want Buffy involved. She's dealing with enough as it is. I can restore his soul permanently, but I don't want to tell her that. After it's done, it can be his call whether he tells her or not." At Spike's stricken look, Xander rolled his eyes at his own stupidity.

"God. I'm sorry. Jeez I'm such an insensitive asshole sometimes. I didn't even think about what this would do to you."

Xander put his arms around Spike and squeezed him tightly. He wanted to take the last two minutes of his life back and reword them. He felt Spike bury his face into his neck and press his lips against the scar. He knew he was reaffirming that he wasn't alone anymore, that even though he didn't have Buffy, he still had Xander. He would always have Xander.

Xander lifted Spike’s head and looked at the miserable expression on the vampire’s face. He just looked so hurt and lost and in need of reassurance that Xander didn't question what he was doing as he leaned in and kissed him. It was meant to be a reassurance, comfort. It started out that way, but quickly it became a lot more. The kiss deepened and Xander pulled Spike onto him so that the vampire was straddling his lap. Xander's hands tightened on Spike's waist as the vampire's hands fisted into his hair, tugging lightly. They bumped their teeth together in their urgency, trying to climb into the other man’s mouth.

Xander tugged on Spike's waist, pulling him impossibly closer. The movement sent their cocks sliding over one another’s and they both groaned into the kiss. Before Xander knew what was happening, he was on his back; his boxers somewhere around his knees and Spike was on him.

The blonde’s jeans and boxers were rucked down and he was grinding his erection into Xander's hip. Xander wriggled until he had freed one leg and wrapped it around Spike's waist. With the added leverage, he pulled Spike down onto him and returned the frantic movements. He was reluctant to end the kiss but he wanted something else more, something that the vampire seemed to instinctively know as he moved away from Xander's mouth and buried his fangs into his neck.

They both cried out as they came almost at the same instant. Xander let his leg slide bonelessly back to the couch and held Spike to him as the vampire licked over the fresh wound and purred contentedly. They were still lying that way five minutes later when the phone rang. Spike reluctantly rolled off Xander and grabbed the phone. Tossing it to Xander over his shoulder he pulled up his boxers and jeans and headed for the kitchen to get a proper breakfast.

Xander answered the phone.

"Hello? ... Oh, okay... Uh sure, no problem. I'll be there in an hour, gotta shower first... Really? Okay then, give me fifteen minutes... yeah, okay. Bye, Wills."

Xander hung up the phone and turned to see Spike watching him from the kitchen while sipping on a mug of blood.

"Take it that was Red?"

"Yeah, some girl from Angel's office called and asked her to come down and resoul him. She needs a ride, so I guess you won't have to cover for me after all."

"You should get ready then, jump in the shower and all that."

"No time. Gotta grab a few things and go."

Xander dashed off to the bedroom to dress and get his journal. It was where he had written the permanent soul restoration spell. He also brought his spell book. Just in case.

After packing these things into a bag as well as a change of clothes, he stopped briefly to kiss Spike goodbye and then left. He didn't see the satisfied smirk on the vampire’s face or he might have rethought his "no time to shower" policy.





Part Twenty-Nine

The drive to L.A. was uneventful. Xander and Willow made small talk, not really wanting to discuss Angelus, The First, or anything else that was going on. At least Xander didn't want to. He could tell Willow wanted to ask him about what was going on with him. He knew her well enough to know she was practically bursting with concern for him. It almost made him laugh. He wondered if she would still be concerned if she knew the truth.

After parking the car and gathering their things, the two Sunnydale natives made their way to the front of the hotel. Xander whistled and looked up at the big hotel.

"Damn. Deadboy sure likes to show off, doesn't he? No old factories for this vamp, eh? Gotta be mansions and huge abandoned hotels. Although, you gotta wonder where he gets the money for these things. I mean, does being evil really pay that well? 'Cause if it does, Spike must have missed the memo."

Yeah, he had already seen the hotel in another reality, but Willow didn't know that. So he played along, acting as though this was his first time to the Hyperion.

Willow just giggled at Xander and headed up the steps to the door.

"Come on. The sooner I do this, the sooner you can ask him about his investment portfolio."

The pair walked undetected into the hotel. Xander was suddenly inundated with images of him and Spike and Angel having sex on the floor right where the others were standing. He shook off the images and tried to pay attention to what was going on in front of him.

There was an argument in progress - obviously about Angelus. They listened for a minute, but when the teenager started talking about putting Angelus down, Xander figured it was time to announce their presence. Willow beat him to it.

"I don't think so. I think you need a witch."

Everyone turned to look at them and Xander smiled goofily and then asked,

"So, who's the brat with the hard-on for staking Angelus?"

Willow scowled at Xander and walked towards the others.

"Did I come at a bad time?"

Wesley looked at her and then spoke her name. Connor gave her a disgusted look and asked if she was a witch. Willow just smiled and replied that yes, she was a witch.

"And you must be Angel's handsome-yet-androgynous son. Oh look, and the sneer is genetic. Who knew?"

Xander grinned at the look of outrage on the kid’s face.

"It's Connor."

The skinny brown-haired girl stepped forward and introduced herself, then Willow babbled on about Wesley’s new look - something Xander had to admit was working for the guy. If he had looked like this in that other reality, he might have been better able to understand that Xander's attraction for him. The Marlboro Man image looked good on him.

Willow wanted to look in on Cordelia, so she and Xander headed for the stairs. About halfway up, Xander stopped and concentrated on the uneasy feeling he was getting.

"Hey, Wills? You go on up, I'm going to go back down and talk to Wes; I don't think Cordy would want me to see her if she's not well. You know, if she looks bad?"

"Oh. Right. Good idea. I won't be long."

Xander went back down the stairs and motioned for Wesley to join him. When the older man came over, Xander threw an arm over his shoulder and drew him away to the furthest corner of the lobby.

"You're good with the magics, right?"

"Yes. But I am nowhere near the level of Miss Rosenburg. Why do you ask?"

"Well, it's just... Look. Some things happened over the summer, and I can feel things. There is something wrong here, upstairs. I think it might be Cordy."

Wesley stepped back in shock from Xander. He looked at him as though trying to read his mind. Xander sighed and rolled his eyes.

"Look. I don't have time to explain everything, okay? I was cursed. By a vengeance demon. I spent two and a half months - here time, ten months - my time, hopping from one reality to the next. I learned a few interesting facts. One, I know that you are not as straight as you'd like everyone to think..."

Wesley’s eyes bugged out and he looked frantically over at Gunn. Xander just continued speaking as though he hadn't just outed the man.

"Two, I have an uncanny ability when it comes to magic. Three, I can restore Angel’s soul to him permanently. Four, I'm not as straight as I thought I was. And lastly, I learned to trust my own instincts. My instincts tell me there is something off about Cordelia."

"You, you won't say anything to them about me, will you?"

"No. But you just keep this conversation between us, all right? I haven't told Willow what happened over the summer. She doesn't know about the permanent soul spell, either."

"But won't you have to perform the ritual then?"

"No. Willow can resoul him, I'll anchor it afterwards. So, do we have a deal? I keep your secret and you keep mine?"

"Of course. But what about Cordelia?"

"One crisis at a time Wes. First we get Deadboy back among the soul-having, then we'll figure out what Cordy's deal is."

"Very well. I suggest you keep an eye on Connor; he is very protective of Cordelia."

"Yeah, and he seems to hate daddy dearest, too. What's up with that?"

"Long story. If we have time, perhaps I'll fill you in later." Just then a green-skinned man came down the stairs and headed towards them. Xander's eyebrows disappeared into his hairline and he whispered to Wesley.

"Um, is that a good demon, a bad demon, or the love-child of Kermit the frog and Liberace?" Wesley laughed and shook his head.

"Xander, this is Lorne. He's an empath demon - he reads auras."

"But only if you sing something for me."

Xander thought about what he should sing. Then he smiled and sang softly.

"I've paid my dues
Time after time
I've done my sentence
But committed no crime
And bad mistakes
I've made a few
I've had my share of sand
Kicked in my face
But I've come through
And we mean to go on and on and on and on"

"No, please don't. No need to go on and on and on, sugar. I'm reading you loud and clear. When the shit has finished hitting the fan, you and me? We need to talk."

"About what?"

"About a certain former-blonde with bad teeth, if you get my drift. I think I can help you."

"Cool."

Wesley had no idea what they were talking about. He figured it had something to do with what Xander had told him, but he also knew Lorne wouldn't betray a confidence so there was no point in asking.

"How is Faith?"

"The same."

Xander broke in.

"Um, excuse me. Did you say Faith was here?"

"Yes, she apprehended Angelus. She's changed a great deal, Xander. She's not the same girl you knew back in Sunnydale."

"Okay. Anything I can do to help? What's wrong with her?"

Lorne glared at Wesley and the Englishman returned the look. Xander knew whatever it was, they were not in agreement over it. He wasn't so sure he wanted to get involved in all of this. He was supposed to just come down here, resoul Angel, find out about spell options for bringing his Spike back, and go home. Things were never simple. Not even this far away from the hellmouth.





Part Thirty

Xander sat at Faith's bedside and watched over her. He had been angry when Lorne told him what had happened, but he understood it. Faith was just doing what she thought was best. Angel was her friend, and she wanted him back. Enough to risk her own life in the process of saving his. He would do what he could to help her recover.

Xander placed his hand on her forehead and channelled energy into her body. He couldn't do much, not with the limited amount of information they knew about this mystical drug she had taken. But as long as she stayed strong, she stood a chance of recovering.

Xander felt the magic start to build up in the hotel. He knew that Willow was beginning her spell so he focused on helping her channel her energies. She was good, and had done this before; but there was something else, something blocking her, trying to stop her from completing her task.

Xander left Faith's side to see what was happening in the lobby. He saw what appeared to be a huge head. A very ugly, very big head. It was growling and shrieking, and everyone was freaking out. Not Willow though; she was still chanting, still doing her job. Xander felt something for her at that moment that he hadn't been sure he'd ever feel again - pride.

He noticed Connor break away from the group and run up the stairs toward him. He should have known, should have seen it before. The boy was obviously infatuated with Cordelia. Xander shook his head and snorted. He was in the same boat once, a very long time ago. All of a sudden the magic swelled and then blinked out. Xander frowned and went in the direction Connor had headed. He was stunned by what he was hearing.

"Oh Connor, I'm so sorry. I thought it came back. That horrible floaty head."

"Did it hurt you? Is the baby..."

"We nearly got killed!"

"Willow's spell, it must have opened a gateway to something."

"Evil. If she keeps at it there's no telling what will happen. She already let hell itself into this hotel."

"I know. I've seen it. It's not safe for you here. I'm gonna make her stop."

"Connor, you can't! She's too powerful. But you can stop it. The reason for all of this. You have to kill Angelus."

Xander blinked rapidly. Cordy was pregnant? Why didn't anyone tell him? And why would she want Angelus dead? Last he knew she was in love with Angel. Things were definitely fishy.

He tuned back in to hear Cordelia tell Connor that killing Angelus was the only way to ensure their family's safety. His jaw dropped open. He couldn't believe it. Cordy and Angel's son? Eeew! That was just gross. He went off to find Wes; they definitely needed to talk.

He found Wes sitting with Faith. He was just about to lay into him about not telling him about Cordy when Faith woke up. She blinked as she saw Xander standing there, but then suddenly cursed and took off.

"Well, that was rude."

Xander and Wesley followed after Faith, but she was too fast to keep up with. By the time they got to the lobby she was nowhere to be seen. Xander saw Willow and Fred talking together and called out to them.

"Hey, either of you see Faith come through here?"

"Yeah, she ran down to the basement. Lorne went after her."

"Thanks, uh... Fred, right?"

"Yeah, it's short for Winifred."

"Oh. Okay."

Xander and Wesley headed for the basement, Willow and Fred close behind them. What they found when they got there was an unconscious Gunn, a recently-resouled Angel holding Connor by the neck through the bars of his cage, and Faith who looked better than she had earlier, but still really bad by slayer standards.

"Um, does someone want to let me out of the cage now?"

Angel looked around and then his eyes rested on Xander. He cocked his head and sniffed the air. Xander suddenly realised what it was he was smelling, and smacked himself on the forehead. He should have known better. Not only did he not mask the claim, he hadn't washed after fooling around with Spike. Too bad Wesley was already unlocking the door.

Xander turned and made a run for it. He got two steps away from the stairs before he was slammed face first into a wall by a snarling vampire. He heard the gasps from behind him, and Willow assuring everyone that he was Angel and not Angelus. He chuckled at his own stupidity and let Angel turn him around and press him back against the wall again.

"What. Did. He. Do?"

"Huh?"

"Don't play stupid with me, Xander. Spike. What did he do?"

"Oh! Um, not what you're obviously thinking. Can we talk in private? Please?"

"I don't think so."

Angel wrenched Xander's head to the side and tore open the front of his shirt. Everyone gasped as they saw the bite on his neck. Willow stepped forward, tears in her eyes.

"Xander?"

Xander sighed in defeat. This was not the way he wanted this to come out. Not here, and not like this. Then again, when had things ever gone the way he wanted them to?

"It's okay, Wills. It's not what you're thinking."

"Good, 'cause I'm thinking Spike's been using you as take-out."

Xander growled - actually growled - and Angel let him go. He didn't move away from him, however. Xander looked Angel in the eye and then smiled as a truly wicked idea came to him. He leaned forward and whispered in his ear.

Angel's eyes went wide and he staggered backwards from the smirking human. He couldn't believe what Xander had told him. But it had to be true. How else would he know that?

"Um, perhaps we should take this discussion upstairs. There is no need for alarm; Xander's fine."

Xander nodded his head in thanks and headed upstairs. Who knew that Deadboy would scare so easily? All he had to do was whisper a few words in Gaelic, and Angel was putty in his hands.

The others followed behind as Xander made his way back to the lobby. He wasn't looking forward to the explanation, but didn't see any way of putting it off. It wasn't likely that Angel was going to drop the subject entirely. Once he was seated somewhat comfortably on the round sofa-thing, Xander took a deep breath and began.

"Okay, some of you know exactly what this is."

He looked pointedly at Angel and Wesley, then at Lorne who nodded his understanding, as well.

"So I don't need to explain it you. But the rest of you just see a vampire bite. Am I right?"

At the collective nods, Xander smiled slightly and continued.

"Alright, first off, let me tell you that I am not a happy-meal. Spike isn't feeding from me; he's my mate. We're bonded."

Xander looked at the faces of the people assembled. Lorne didn't seem bothered at all, Angel was still in shock, and Wes looked like he wanted to say something but was biting his tongue to remain silent. Connor looked at him with pure revulsion, and Fred merely looked curious. It was Willow's reaction he was worried about. She was the one he had to see everyday, after all.

"Wills? You're awfully quiet."

"I... I don't know what to say, Xander. I mean you disappear for months, then you come home and you won't talk about it, you avoid me like the plague, and now you're gay? And with Spike? What about Buffy?"

"Buffy has nothing to do with this. This is about me and Spike."

"Okay, fine. How did this happen? What the hell happened to you in two and half months that made you seek out Spike as a boyfriend?"

Xander just knew this was going to turn ugly if he didn't do something soon. He looked around and his eyes settled on the door to the office. He stood and headed for the door.

"Deadboy? Is it okay if Willow and I talk in private?"

"Fine. But I want a word with you alone, as well."

Xander smirked.

"Okay. But remember, I'm a married man now. No funny stuff."

Xander laughed at the look on Angel's face and headed into the office with Willow right behind him.




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