Sequel to Nexus

Pairing: X/A, and others
Rating: Eventually NC-17
Summary: Angel offers Xander a road trip; guess where Xander wants to go?
Archive: Contact me
Disclaimer: All characters are the property of Joss Whedon et al. No profit is derived from this work.
Warnings: Slash, of course, but this is a continuation of the Nexus!verse, in which there be Spuffiness. Because of the many Slash!Spike fans among the readership, that Spuffiness tends to happen mostly off-scene (if I weren’t considering your tender sensibilities, I’d have them going at it in Technicolor and great detail). Remember that Spuffiness does not a het!Spike make, something which might become a plot point in a later chapter. People who are squicked by less-then-absolute monogamy should be warned. Finally, as those of you who read Nexus will know, there are occasional moments of angst and darkness in my writing.
Acknowledgements: If you enjoy this fic, a great deal of the credit goes to my very fine beta, Geyer, AKA The Punctuation Mistress of Pain. (I didn’t send her the Prologue, and it shows.) Geyer not only checks meticulously for mistakes in grammar, spelling and syntax, she also catches errors of fact and history. She good-naturedly reads my rants about plot construction, and offers helpful advice. If she did any more, I’d have to give her co-writing credit.
Feedback feeds my writing machine!





Caritas


by
Rakshathewolf



Part One

As Gunn pulled away from the old hotel that had been their home for so long, Cordelia murmured. “This is just awful.” She thought of Xander, so full of life. “I just hate to abandon them at a time like this.”

Wesley patted her hand reassuringly. “Yes, yes, it is. But Angel has always known about Xander’s mortal fragility. And he’s strong. He’ll get through this, and we’ll be alright.”

Gunn pressed down on the accelerator, taking them further away from the Hyperion. “It could happen to any of us, y’know?”

“Yes, of course. But as I said, we’ll be prepared next time.” Wesley set his jaw. “We just have to get through this.”

“Right.” Gunn kept his eyes on the road. “We get through this, Angel gets completely in charge again, and then…” He paused to swerve around a vagrant moseying across the street with a full shopping cart. “And then we kick Angel’s ass for being a major drama queen.”

“Oh, we so do.” Cordelia nodded emphatically.

“And we take precautions to make sure this doesn’t happen again. Are we all agreed?” Wesley was resolved.

“Yep.” Cordelia crossed her arms, looking determined. “’Cause there’s enough REAL life and death situations without this kind of crap. So, next year, whether he likes it or not, even if we have to kidnap him, Xander gets a flu shot.”

****************

In a rare period of solitude, Xander decided to venture to the bathroom on his own, a thing which sounded a lot easier than it really was. One step at a time, steady, steady…having gained his goal, he groaned and leaned against the wall while he peed, a little surprised that the flow wasn’t orange, what with the huge quantities of orange juice that had been practically forced down his throat in the last few hours.

Xander smiled in spite of his general misery. Flu was crappy under any circumstances, but there was a world of difference between riding it out on your own in a house where no one particularly cared, and having someone pampering you, obviously worried sick about little old you.

Speaking of someone worried sick, Xander tried to step up his snail-like pace, wanting to be back in bed before his vampire came back and hissied out because Xander had gotten up and wandered around without his help. Maybe shoulda waited for that help, actually, he thought. He had covered half the distance between bathroom and bed, and was suddenly overcome with the temptation to stop and rest right there, on the very inviting floor. Nice floor. Floor good. Xander’s knees buckled and he curled up on the carpet, realizing too late that the wonderful floor had no cozy blanket, which he desperately needed. The chills hit hard, and Xander curled in on himself, shuddering from the sudden intense cold.

*****************

Downstairs, Angel fussed over the two stockpots simmering on the stove--one with meaty beef bones and onions and herbs, the other with chicken and vegetables--and decided that the beef needed a little more time, but the chicken was just right. Carefully, he strained out a rich cupful and set it on the tray next to a plate of lightly buttered toast and the inevitable glass of orange juice.

Setting the stockpot back on the stove, he mentally elbowed his grumbling alter ego aside, feeling harried. “For Hells’ sake, would you back off? Like I don’t have my hands full without babysitting you.”

“Babysittin’? Who’s doin’ the babysittin’, then? Would ye have remembered th’ extra garlic in the broth without me t’ remind ye? It’s good for cold an’ flu, an’ ye’d have forgotten it if…”

“God, shut up! And I suppose you know that garlic is going to stay in his system for a while, right? Gonna sting, if...”

“Mother ‘o God, and they say I’m the heartless one. Lad’s at death’s door, and yer worried about your…”

“SHUT UP! Don’t even say that!” Angel braced his arms on the counter, head hanging, struggling against the panic seething just under the surface. “He is NOT at death’s door! He’s fine! He’s got the fucking flu, not the plague. With your attitude, no wonder everyone’s so damn tense around here.”

“He doesn’t SEEM fine.”

“I know. God, this is hell. But the doctor’s been here, remember? He’s okay. At least he will be.”

The demon’s voice dropped, suddenly, to a whisper in his head. “In your day…”

“I know.” Angel whispered back. “I remember.” He hadn’t been sure just how much access the demon had to his memories of human life; apparently quite a lot. And he knew what Angelus was thinking of now; he’d been trying not to think of it himself.

His only real experience with illness had been when he had been mortal, and in those days, chills and fever often meant death. He, and the little sister he’d dispatched when he’d become a vampire, had been the only two of six children who had not succumbed to childhood fevers.

“Yeah, an’ remember 1918?” Angel shuddered at that particular memory. The influenza pandemic had disrupted things so totally that even the demon world was tense. Like a modern black death, people sickened and died so fast that cities shut down, and corpses piled up faster than they could be buried. Better than half a million dead in America alone, an unusually high percentage of them healthy adults in their twenties and thirties.

No wonder he and his demon were terrified. Putting his memories aside and picking up the tray, the vampire exited the kitchen, pausing in the strangely deserted lobby. “Where is everybody, anyway?”

“Aye, well, I have a theory about that…” The voice in his head actually sounded sheepish.

Angel stopped, tray in hand. “What?”

“You didn’t tell them, did you?”

“Tell them what?” Angel stood there, listening to his own head, halfway up the stairs in the strangely empty space.

“About our arrangement.” Sitting up with Xander, they had discovered that they could do with much less sleep if they spelled each other, one withdrawing completely while the other took a shift.

“No, why should I? You’re pretty much here, anyway, and…”

“Well, the last time y’ were resting, I…well, I sang to Xander.”

“You SANG? Why would you do that? He feels bad enough without…Oh, wait. What’s significant about the fact that you sang?”

“Well, he was sleepin’, not listenin’, so it wasn’t like I was torturin’ the lad. But anyhow, shortly after, I caught a whiff of the green demon, and…”

Angel threw his head back, eyes closed. “Wonderful. So what, now they think you’re up front and in charge, huh?”

“So it seems.”

“Well, that’s just great.” Angel trudged the rest of the way up the stairs and nudged open the door of the suite he shared with Xander. All conversation between him and…well, him…stopped as his eyes fell on the bed, which was empty.

“Xander?” The vampire set the tray on the bureau, suddenly panicked.

“Xander!” Angel dropped down next to his boy, who was curled into a shivering ball on the carpet. He gathered Xander’s head and shoulders into one arm, brow furrowing in worry. “What are you doin’ on the floor, Sweetling?” Xander shivered in his arms, and he stroked his boy’s forehead, then squeezed his fingers gently. “Dearlin’, yer freezing, let’s get you back into bed.”

He lifted Xander carefully and bundled him back into bed, tucking the covers close about his ears. “What happened?”

Xander curled up into the nest of blankets, teeth chattering. “I went to the bathroom.”

“Why didn’t you wait for me?” Angel settled another blanket over the quivering bundle in the bed then sat on the edge of the mattress, stroking back sweat-damp curls.

“I thought I was up to it.” Xander closed his eyes and leaned into the touch. “Apparently not. Sorry, Honey.”

Angel’s hand stilled for a moment, and he waggled his thumb lightly over Xander’s forehead. “You don’t like feeling helpless, do you, Precious?”

“I hate it.” Xander opened his eyes and smiled at his vampire. “But I love you.”

Angel returned the smile, disarmed as always by his boy’s sweetness. “I love you too, Baby. I hate it that you’re feeling so bad.”

“Hey, having a good feeling-bad experience here. Last time I had this, I was in the basement of doom, and pretty much on my own with it. Much less unpleasant with the handsome, devoted vampire waiting on me hand and foot.” Xander stroked said vampire’s cheek, then dropped his hand, suddenly exhausted, eyes sinking closed.

Angel looked down at Xander and bit back his hatred of the careless elder Harrises, while he remembered his own mother’s endless vigils, night after night, at the side of this or the other of his doomed siblings. But she was dead in her grave, by his hand, these many years. And Ma and Pa Harris were beyond his revenge, more by Xander’s request than by the restrictions of his soul, which was so tempted to make an exception in their case.

Scrubbing his hand over his face, he shook himself out of his thoughts and took Xander’s hand, jostling it a little. “Xander, Sweet, do you think that you could eat a little something?” Angel rose and brought the tray to the bed.

Xander wanted to please, but couldn’t scare up even a memory of appetite. “I can’t.” He began to cough violently, and Angel rubbed his back anxiously.

When the paroxysm had passed, Xander collapsed back onto the pillows, tired out and aching all over. Angel waited until he had his breath back a little then propped him up gently. “If you can’t eat, can you drink a little juice? Just enough to take some pills with? They’ll make you better,” he coaxed.

Xander struggled into a more-or-less upright position and accepted the orange juice and pills obediently, then wriggled back into the waiting warmth of the covers, shuddering.

Angel sat by his boy, feeling helpless. Within minutes, the chills passed and Xander began to kick off the covers. In seconds, the vampire had stripped down to boxers and was climbing into the bed, grateful for the chance to be useful. With a moan of relief, Xander, now on fire, pressed against Angel’s cool length.

Angel frowned at the burning heat radiating from his boy’s skin and caressed his back, sliding down until his head was against Xander’s chest, listening to the wet bubbling wheeze of his lungs.

“Stop that.” Xander’s voice vibrated in his ears, and he lifted his head from his mate’s chest almost guiltily.

“I am not developing pneumonia, okay? Stop obsessing.” Xander tugged at his vampire’s hair, which was growing out at his own request. Soon after he came to LA, Angel had mentioned that he liked Xander’s hair longer, and Xander had agreed to forgo haircuts, as long as Angel agreed to do the same. Months later, both of them were sporting longer ‘dos.

Now, winding his hand affectionately through the soft strands, Xander murmured apologetically. “Sorry, didn’t mean to bark at you, Honey. Just, this is frustrating as hell. I ache all over, and I feel too bad to do anything. Getting bored, I guess.”

Angel pressed a sympathetic kiss or two against his mate’s smooth, hot skin, then raised his face, inspired. “Okay, then, wanna hear a funny story?”

“Definitely. Does it involve a minister, a priest and a rabbi walking into a bar?”

“Nope, better than that.”

Making the tale as entertaining as he could, Angel told Xander about Angelus’ ill-advised song and the apparent resultant decamping of the rest of the occupants of the building.

Angel grinned, pleased at his success in diverting Xander, as his boy broke into delighted laughter. Unfortunately, the laughter soon devolved into another coughing fit, and Angel, feeling a bit guilty, rubbed Xander’s back through the spasms. When the paroxysm passed, though, Xander grinned up at him.

“You keep telling me that you can’t sing, Honey, but now that it’s led to evacuation of a building, I finally believe you.” His expression sobered. “Is Fred still out of town?”

“Yeah, she staying in Texas with her folks for another two days.”

Xander nodded. Although they hadn’t discussed it, they were both aware that Angelus’ heightened presence in their lives was particularly difficult for the little Texan. Still, there was a core of steel in Fred’s gentle nature, and after a few days of being unusually skittish around Angel, she had begun to adjust; just lately, she dealt with her boss—aware of the increasing integration of the two personalities—with her chin high and her shoulders straight, eyes meeting his unflinchingly.

Angelus’ presence occasionally rendered Angel’s relations with the rest of the crew a little less cordial, but Angel gradually noticed, with interest, that Angelus chose not to assert himself in dealings with the young woman. When he remarked on it, the demon answered gruffly that Xander, white knight that he was, felt especially protective of Fred, and he for one didn’t want to be bringin’ on a cold spell in th’ bedroom.

Angel had wisely stayed silent at that. The conversations between him and the demon were more habit than anything else; as the integration proceeded, they were increasingly unnecessary as the two were now almost completely privy to each other’s thoughts and feelings. That being the case, Angel was well aware that Fred had earned the demon’s reluctant respect, just as Willow had done years before.

“Hey.” Poking gently, Xander brought him out of his musings. “Why don’t you call Cordelia? You can use my phone.” He indicated his cell phone, resting in its charger on the bedside table.

“I will, in a bit. Why don’t you try to get some sleep?”

“Do it now,” Xander insisted, “before they decide to start doing inconvenient spells with paperweights. Besides, I want to hear this.” Grinning, he prodded Angel again, urging him to pick up the phone. “You know, don’t you, that the longer you put it off, the longer it’s going to be before you hear the end of it?”

With a reluctant sigh, the vampire took the phone and punched in Cordelia’s number.

“Hello?”

“Cordelia, where the hell is everyone?”

“Who is this?

“For Gods’ sake, Cordelia, you know my voice!”

“Yeah, well, how do we know it’s really you?”

Before Angel could answer, Xander reached for the phone enthusiastically. “Ooooh, let me tell her.”

With mock disgust, Angel surrendered the phone, hiding a smile as Xander settled comfortably into the covers, for the moment distracted from his misery.

“Hey, Cordy? It’s me. Yeah, a little better. Listen, you’re going to love this…”

************

Days later, Xander stretched out happily on the comfy couch in the suite, snugly wrapped in a down comforter that had magically appeared a few days ago, watching a Star Trek TNG marathon on the widescreen TV. Although he still felt a little weak, the worst of the flu symptoms had finally disappeared, and he drowsed contentedly, his head comfortably pillowed on Angel’s firm thigh.

Profoundly relieved by Xander’s recovery, Angel rhythmically stroked the dark head in his lap, and brooded. He had convinced himself that part of the reason that Xander had succumbed to illness was that he had been working too hard. He insisted on doing construction work part-time, even though he was also now an integral part of the AI team, often taking on demons well into the night. Knowing what he did, Angel was sure that Xander’s past hadn’t included many vacations. Easily reaching a decision, he shook his boy gently, easing him out of a light doze.

“Xander, Sweetheart?”

The boy turned his head up to gaze up into his mate’s eyes. “Yeah?”

“I was just wonderin’. Would you maybe like to get away for a while?”

Angel was confused by the stricken look that appeared on his boy’s face, until Xander swallowed hard, then asked, his voice cracking with pain, “Um, where is it you want me to go?”

Angel closed his eyes for a moment. “Not you, Dearling. Us. You and I. I just thought you might like to go away. Flying’s troublesome, but we could drive somewhere. Up and down the coast, see Big Sur by moonlight, or visit San Francisco. Or into the desert. Anywhere you want to go, Precious.”

“Really? You and me?”

“Of course, Sweet. Did you think that I would let you go away from me?” Angel combed his hand through Xander’s sable waves. “Y’ know I can’t get along without ye, my very own.”

“Oh.” Reassured, Xander frowned, thinking, then turned suddenly bright eyes up to his lover’s face. “Well, I didn’t want to say anything, because, you know, I’m really happy here with you, but, um…” Xander hesitated, then went on. “I’ve been just a teensy bit homesick. Can we go to Sunnydale?”

Aghast, Angel carefully guarded his expression. He had, after all, told Xander to choose the destination. Swallowing his reluctance, he smiled down at his boy and nodded. “Aye, Love. If that’s what you want, Sunnydale it is.”





Part Two

As soon as the front door at Revello Drive closed on their departing visitors, Dawn’s eyes widened and an impish smile curved her lips. “Wow, sexual tension much?”

Buffy and Willow, as responsible adults, tried to look disapproving, but, as Dawn made a beeline for the couch, kneeling on it to peek out the front window, they caught each other’s eyes, grinned, then followed at speed.

Within seconds, all three of them were aligned on the sofa, pushing the curtains aside to watch Xander and Angel walking down the front path.

“Wanna bet that they have a snog before they even get in the car?” This was Dawn again, revealing Spike’s influence on her speech.

Spike, returning from the kitchen to gather up more of the empty plates and glasses, heard this last and regarded the three pert, denim clad bottoms lined up in front of the window, part of him appreciating the sight (‘Ere, that’s Niblet, you filthy old sod, he scolded himself firmly), another part of him suppressing the temptation to give each of them a good swat.

“Oi! Get away from there, you lot.” Wiping fussily at a ring of moisture on the coffee table, he muttered to himself. “Time was, women had a bit o’ delicacy about things.”

Willow and Dawn ignored Spike’s grousing as a matter of course, but Buffy, who loved a game of ‘tease Spike’ more than almost anything, turned and bounded off the couch to hug him around the ribs and twinkle up at him. “What’s the matter? Now that Giles is in England, you think you have to be the old fuddy-duddy in residence? Can’t a girl enjoy a little man-on-man hotness once in a while?”

“No, as a matter o’ fact, a girl can’t, least not th’ girls in this house, anyway.” He favored the slayer with a mock-glare, giving her a little spank on her firm fanny.

“Yeah? And why not?” Buffy practically purred up at him.

“Well, Red’s battin’ for th’ other team, so she’s just encouragin’ you two in yer depravity. Dawn can’t, ‘cause she’s just a sprout, an’ it’ll be time enough for her to take an interest in such things in, oh, ten years or so…”

Goading, Buffy raised innocent eyes to his. “Did you hear her talking about ‘snogging?’ Who’s the corrupting influence here, anyway?”

“Just teaching th’ lass proper use o’ the language, that’s all.”

“And me? Why can’t I watch the Xander/Angel love?” She smirked up at him, challenging.

“Well, Pet…” His voice dropped to a velvety murmur, and he wriggled seductively against her hips until she gasped, eyelashes fluttering. “If you’ve forgotten why you shouldn’t look at other blokes, I’ll be glad to take y’ upstairs an’ give y’ a reminder.”

“Aren’t you all bossy, masterful guy?” she cooed, a little breathless, hugging a little tighter.

“Yeah, an’ don’t y’ forget it, Slayer.” Addressing the two still peering out the front window, he ordered, “I mean it now, you two come away from there and stop lookin’ at things that y’ shouldn’t.”

Willow, who didn’t mind baiting Spike herself, just for fun, sang out softly. “You’re not the boss of me, Willlliammmm…”

Before Spike could respond to that bit of effrontery, Dawn chimed in. “Why shouldn’t we watch Angel and Xander grope each other…” which, as predicted, was what was happening at the moment, Angel having stopped beside the Plymouth and drawn Xander to him for a kiss and a fondle under the streetlight. “If we turn around, we’ll just have to watch you groping Buffy, and we can see that anytime.”

“Yeah, we see a lot of that.” Willow interjected, keeping her eyes on the free show out on the street.

“Cheeky wenches!” Spike hid a smile as Buffy chuckled softly against his chest. “Can’t do much about Red, she’s of age an’ past reform, but you, Niblet, you’re not too old to be spanked.”

The clinch finally ended, Angel had opened the door for Xander and was crossing around the front of the Plymouth, so, show over, Dawn turned away and regarded Spike with big, innocent eyes. “Oh yeah? Well, here I was thinking I was too YOUNG to be spanked.”

Spike glared at the teen, at a loss for words, while Buffy blushed hotly for reasons of her own, and Willow raised an eyebrow at the vampire, smirking.

“Oh, very nice, that,” Spike groused, thoroughly enjoying himself. “Used t’ be, women had some respect for th’ man o’ the house.”

Willow grinned. “Well, things have changed since your day, what with the suffragettes and all.” Stepping around Buffy, she gave Spike a quick peck on the cheek. “Guess you’ll have to settle for love instead.” Not waiting to watch the vampire melt predictably into a little puddle of goo, she headed for the stairs. “I’m off to bed. Early class tomorrow, so you two keep it down.”

Struggling to keep the sappy smile off his face, Spike gave Buffy, still beside him, arms wrapped around him, a little squeeze, then turned his best stern father look on the Bit. “You too. Off to bed. Shoulda been there hours ago. Mornin’ comes early, an’ all that.”

“Yeah, yeah. ’Night, Buffy.” Knowing that they had Spike on the ropes, she kissed the vampire in her turn. “‘Night, Dad.”

Spike watched her mount the stairs, an open, vulnerable look in his blue eyes, then turned his gaze to the small blonde leaning against his shoulder. “Rotten to the core, the lot o’ ye. Don’t know what I did to deserve getting’ stuck with you lot.”

Buffy smiled at him, eyes soft, then hooked a hand behind his neck to draw his forehead down to rest against hers. “Just lucky, I guess.”

Game over, Spike closed his eyes and stood quietly for a moment. “Yeah, I guess that’s it. Just lucky.”

“So, wanna just leave the rest of this ‘til tomorrow?” Buffy was anxious to get him upstairs. Well, she always was, ‘cause Spikesex…wow. But more to the point on this particular night was the fact that, in the privacy of their bedroom, Spike tended to be more open, more willing to let his defenses down. So was she, come to think of it. And Angel and Xander’s visit was nice, but…there were issues, for both of them. And Spike and Buffy were first and foremost each other’s best friends and confidants. And she longed to talk it all out together.

Usually, Spike would have responded with a leer and a grope, but now, he just surveyed the half-cleared mess and looked down at her gravely. “Yeah, luv. Let’s do.”

Buffy nodded, smiling up at him, and took his hand, leading him toward the stairs.

*********

As Angel drove away from the Revello Drive house, Xander looked his way, still a little dazed from the vampire’s sudden display of passion. “Wow. Not that I’m complaining, no siree, but what was that about?”

“Been wantin’ to do that all night.” Angel paused at a stop sign, then drove on. “Besides, couldn’t disappoint the audience, could I?”

Xander emitted an endearing little squeak. “Audience? What audience?”

“The girls,” Angel replied casually. “They were watching from the window.”

Xander’s eyes grew round as saucers. “Girls? Which girls?”

“All three of them. Lined up like monkeys at the zoo.”

“Oh, my God.” Xander closed his eyes and leaned his head back against the seat, blushing. Willow and Buffy were bad enough, but Dawn? Buffy’s little sister was perpetually a little girl in his mind, and he groaned at the thought of her witnessing the clinch on the sidewalk.

“Give the people what they want, that’s what I always say.”

Xander digested that in silence as the big car moved through the night, then rolled his head on the seat back to watch the vampire’s strong profile in the shifting streetlight. “Speaking of giving the people what they want, thanks for coming with me.”

Angel shot a fond glance at his mate before turning his eyes back to the street. “You’re welcome.”

When they had finally reached the mansion after the long drive from LA last night, they had had some very fine, very nostalgic sex in the big bed. As they were drifting toward sleep, Angel had said something about letting Xander get together with the Scoobies—they had planned to meet at Revello Drive that evening—without him tagging along.

Xander had agreed quickly, because of course, Angel didn’t want to hang out, so fine, no problem. But Angel could see that Xander was disappointed, so, without pondering the whys and wherefores, he had reversed himself, stating an intention to go along after all, and had his reward when Xander brightened immediately.

Sometime during the course of the evening, Angel had figured it out, realizing that, for all that Xander loved the girls, thought of them as family, he felt…Angel searched for the word…disregarded by them. Or undervalued. By the ones who were supposed to be his best friends. It wasn’t really news to the vampire, of course, but it had taken a little while for him to realize that his presence there amounted to validation to his boy, proof that he was worthy of love. That realization had subtly changed the dynamic of the evening.

Xander was still talking, and Angel roused himself out of his thoughts to concentrate on his boy’s words.

“…but it wasn’t too bad, right? Not too weird?”

“No, not too weird at all. On a one-to-ten scale? No more than 15 or so.”

“Oh. I guess so.” Xander looked down at his hands, gripped together in his lap. “You don’t have to do this again, you know? I’m okay if you want to just hang at home after this. Still, not much fun for you, is it?” He sighed. “I’m sorry. We should have gone somewhere else.”

“Xander.” The vampire’s quiet, authoritative tone got Xander’s attention immediately. “I’m happy to be with you, wherever we are.” He smiled, teasing now. “Besides, the weird makes it fun. I’m entertained enough by the sight o’ my childe playin’ house with his little family to make it well worth my while. I came here because you wanted to, but I’ll admit to bein’ interested now.”

“Yeah?” Xander was watching him hopefully, so Angel grinned and nodded.

“I’m in.”

Happy now, Xander relaxed. “So, tonight was maybe a little fun, huh?”

***********

Xander wasn’t really sure what kind of situation he’d find at Revello Drive; in the back of his mind, he guessed, he really expected to find things unchanged, with Spike still hovering in the background, putting his snarky two bits in from time to time, largely ignored. Yeah, he knew that Spike and Buffy were doing the nasty, and he was used to covert heated glances between them. But from the time he rang the doorbell, Angel just behind him, and Buffy had answered, Spike at her shoulder, Willow and Dawn bouncing excitedly just beyond, things had gone weirdly pear-shaped.

Oh, some things hadn’t changed. Buffy, Willow and Dawn had welcomed back their Xander-shaped friend with all the squealing, chattering enthusiasm he could have wished for. What was new was Spike’s attitude as he watched the hugfest with a sort of proprietary geniality, pausing to accord his sire a nod and a quiet hello as he ushered them all further into the foyer and closed the door behind them. When the girls had gotten the preliminaries out of the way with Xander, Spike had offered to take his jacket with a cordial smile while Buffy turned to Angel, giving him a brief hug that was rather stiltedly returned.

Xander watched while his vampire accepted a surprisingly enthusiastic hello embrace from Willow, then turned almost reluctantly toward Dawn, who stood looking at him warily, her hands tucked into the back pockets of her jeans.

Dawn’s memories of Angel—fake or not—didn’t inspire much confidence. When he had first been around after they moved to Sunnydale, Dawn, just going on thirteen, had found his size and his somber demeanor intimidating. Then, after the terrible time of Angelus’ emergence, he had become the stuff of nightmares, and she had never gotten over her fear of him, in spite of Buffy’s assurances that he was harmless.

But she was older now, and everyone else seemed okay with him, so she did her best, giving him a diffident smile and a soft “Hi.”

“Hello, Dawn.” Angel made his voice gentle. “You’ve grown up.” //Grown up very nicely, too, toothsome little morsel.// Old habits died hard after all. Angel squashed the inner voice with a flash of alarm that had Buffy giving him a quizzical glance.

Thankfully, Spike had ushered them into the living room then, and they all found seats around the coffee table loaded down with snacks and desserts. Angel settled into a corner of the big sofa, drawing Xander down beside him. Willow quickly claimed Xander’s other side, leaving Dawn to fold herself, colt-like, into one of the facing armchairs.

Buffy went into the kitchen to fill drink orders, and Spike dropped into the other chair. While Xander, Willow and Dawn dug into the spread before them, Angel surveyed his childe, taking in his air of relaxed contentment. Meeting the piercing blue gaze of his youngest, the vampire gazed steadily for a moment, feelings mixed. Half of him wanted to kick his ass for him for cozying up to a slayer, and half wanted to threaten him with dire consequences if he failed to be good to her. Finally, he smiled, a small, rueful smile, and Spike relaxed noticeably, then returned the smile almost shyly.

//Will, ah, Will. Who woulda ever foreseen this?// Angel was drawn out of his moment of melancholy by the return of Buffy, bringing soft drinks and beer, as well as a discreet and unasked-for mug of blood for him. Surprised and appreciative, he met her eyes, and she gave him a small smile before turning to perch on the arm of Spike’s chair, draping an arm around his shoulders and offering him a kiss before turning her attention to Xander to ask him about life in L.A.

Urged on by the girls, Xander talked, catching everyone up on Cordy and Wesley, describing Fred and Gunn and his construction work. He had stories to tell about L.A. demon fighting, and, with a fond glance and a pat on his vampire’s thigh, the training he was doing with Angel.

“So, no more Left-foot Xander, huh?” Buffy’s tone was gently teasing, but Angel didn’t much like it, all the same. He had had his arm draped casually along the back of the sofa, and now he dropped it down around Xander’s shoulders, drawing his mate a little closer.

“Actually, Xander’s a pretty good fighter. I’d as soon have him watching my back as anyone I’ve ever fought beside.” He said this looking directly at the slayer, almost challenging.

Buffy looked a little taken aback, but before she could retort, unwisely, that Angel might be a little prejudiced there, Spike broke in smoothly.

“Simmer down, there, Peaches. We all know the whelp’s not useless. Just that everyone around here with a Y chromosome comes in for the abuse. Believe me, I know right enough. Bloody tyranny of women, it is, an’ I’m sure you’ll get yer turn soon enough.”

Buffy, successfully distracted, smirked at him and dropped a kiss onto his platinum curls. “Poor baby. So put upon.”

He gave her a little pinch and grinned up at her cockily. “Didn’t say there weren’t compensations, did I, pet?”

Spike was glad to have nipped at the bud any trouble between his girl and his sire, but the role of peace-maker didn’t come naturally to him, so he turned his attention to the boy and asked innocently. “So, Xander. Angel here keep a close eye on your back, too?”

Xander looked at him just a moment then flushed red. Angel drew his mate that much closer. “Watch yersel’, William.” The vampire’s voice was mild.

Spike snorted and Buffy stiffened a little at the hint of brogue, while Dawn caught Willow’s amused eye, silently mouthing “William?” with raised eyebrows.

“Jealous, Bleach-brain?” At this cool bit of cheek from his Xander, Angel couldn’t hold back a slight smile, and the fingers on Xander’s shoulder moved to brush every-so-lightly on his claim scar to signify his approval.

“Oi!” This protest was directed mostly at the giggling Willow and Dawn, then Spike grinned Xander’s way. “Me back an’ front are both doin’ just fine, but thanks fer yer concern, Step-mum.”

At this, Dawn broke into gales of laughter, and Xander turned doe-eyes to his mate. “Angelllll, he’s being mean to me. Can’t you kill him or something?”

Angel, finding himself rather enjoying himself after all, wound fond fingers through his mate’s black locks and tugged gently. “Sorry, Sweet. But Buffy’s taken him to raise, so she’ll have to deal with him.”

“’S true. So, gonna give me a good thrashin’ then put me t’ bed without me supper, Luv?”

“Idiot.” Buffy cuffed him affectionately. “It’ll be thrashings for everyone if you guys don’t behave.”

So the evening had proceeded on, everyone apparently in silent agreement that, for this night at least, tensions among them would be made light of. All and all, Angel thought, it hadn’t been too bad, except for one thing.

Back among the Scoobies, old patterns took hold, and Angel watched Xander gradually, subtly, become more nervous, more self-deprecating. At one point, Angel, one arm still around Xander’s shoulders, caught one of his mate’s fidgeting hands in his free one and casually laid their interlocked hands on the boy’s knee, which had begun to bounce nervously.

Not even noticing, Xander chatted on to Willow, but the twitching stopped, and Xander relaxed back almost imperceptibly into the lee of the vampire’s body. That was the moment that Angel realized, probably better than Xander himself did, why it was important for him to spend time with Xander and the Scoobies, and he vowed to do so, as much as possible.


Still engaged in catching up, Xander unconsciously brought his other hand to join the hands intertwined on his thigh, and he was soon toying idly with his vampire’s large, powerful hand, stroking the broad back, playing with the long, elegant fingers, unaware of his movements and of the notice the others were paying to his innocent, telling actions.

Angel was fully aware of their notice, though, and he kept his attention on Xander, letting his devotion to his mate show plainly on his features. With the exception of Xander himself, everyone in the room was at least a little bit afraid of him, and he was determined that, if they accomplished nothing else on this trip, Xander’s friends would learn to show some for respect for his deserving boy. Hopefully without having recourse to the demon’s heartfelt desire to inflict minor but painful damage on each and every one of them.

Finally, all of the most urgent topics—Xander’s new life, his and Angel’s decision to forgo haircuts (“gonna bankrupt the hair gel industry,” was Spike’s comment), demon activity in Sunnydale, Giles’ most recent phone call, Willow’s classes and adventures in magic, and, most important of all, the drama of Dawn’s convoluted love life—had been covered, arrangements had been made for Xander, Buffy and Willow to meet the next day for brunch, and Angel and Xander stood to return to the mansion. Spike and Dawn were in the kitchen packing up snacks for Xander to take home, and Buffy was retrieving coats. Taking advantage of the absence of the others, Willow stepped close and looked anxiously at the two of them before turning her full attention on the vampire.

“Is it really true, then, about you and Angelus being integrated?”

Xander fielded that one. “Well, the process isn’t fully complete, but yeah.”

Willow gazed gravely up at Angel. “So, Angelus is here? I mean, he knows everything that’s going on, can hear me and all that?”

Cautious, Angel answered slowly. “Yes. You’re safe, but yes, he’s here.”

“Good.” She smiled suddenly, then pitched forward, hugging the vampire fiercely. Angel sent his smiling mate a look of alarm over her shoulder, then jumped as the Witch delivered a firm, smacking kiss to his cool cheek. “That’s for both of you, for taking such good care of Xander. And that…” She kissed the other cheek, “…is for Angelus, for giving me his protection all those years ago.”

She stood back and beamed up at him, and he smiled back at her in spite of his discomfort. Thankfully, Spike and Dawn came back from the kitchen just then, saving Angel from the need to reply.

************

Now, the vampire shot his boy a wry look. “Well, ‘fun’ might be a stretch, but it was interestin’.

“Dawn’s really growing up, isn’t she?”

“Aye, that she is.” The demon was wise enough to keep his thoughts to himself on that matter.

“Oh!” Xander bounced gleefully. “How about Willow, there at the end? Boy, that was unexpected, huh?”

Angel sent a stern glance in Xander’s direction as he rounded the corner onto Crawford Street. “That it was. Did no one ever teach ye the value of discretion, boy? Y’ don’t have t’ tell everythin’ y’ know, yeah?”

“Oh, hey.” Xander turned big, innocent eyes his way and held up his hands, palms forward. “You mean about giving Willow your protection? Wasn’t me. Spike must have spilled the beans.”

“I see.”

“Still,” Xander batted his eyes provocatively. “If you feel the need to punish someone, I suppose I understand.”

Angel pulled the big car around to the parking spot at the sheltered side of the big house, killed the engine, then turned to give his boy a cool, steady look. “Do y’ now?” He stretched his arm along the back of the bench seat to caress Xander’s cheek softly. “If ye tell me that ‘twasn’t ye that told, I believe ye, but still,” one big thumb swept down to rub lightly across Xander’s rosy mouth, “…ye certainly seemed to be enjoyin’ the situation.”

Xander, suddenly breathless, opened his mouth to take Angel’s thumb in, sucking greedily, his groin tightening. Over the last few months, a new tone had crept into their lovemaking. Maybe it was the return to Sunnydale, and Angel’s protectiveness at Buffy’s house, but he found himself burning for it now. His hips thrust helplessly against nothing, incredibly aroused just by the sound of Angel’s voice and the taste of his big thumb in Xander’s mouth.

Withdrawing his thumb with a ‘pop’, Angel slid a little closer to Xander and unbuttoned his boy’s shirt, finding and fingering already hard little nipples. “Aye, ye were enjoyin’ the situation entirely too much. I think punishment is in order after all.” He stroked up and down his boy’s abdomen, then returned to the greedy little nubs of flesh, tweaking them hard, one after another. “What do y’ think is the best way to discipline such a bad boy, hmm? Shall I bind up yer pretty little cock an’ balls and use you for hours an’ not let ye come?”

At that, Xander dropped his head back against the back of the seat, eyes squeezed shut, hands clenching and unclenching on his thighs. When Angel said nothing for a while, just continued to torment Xander’s nipples, one hand crept up and started to rub restlessly at the hard bulge trapped painfully in his khakis.

In a flash, Angel moved to grasp the offending hand at the wrist and smacked the back of it sharply. “None of that, now, Baby. Tell me, do you think I should punish you that way? Tie up your cock good and tight, and not let you come?”

Xander rolled his head toward Angel, eyes feverishly bright. “What ever you say, Daddy.”

“That’s right, Baby. Whatever Daddy says. ‘Cause Daddy loves you, and only punishes ye fer yer own good, isn’t that right?”

“Yes, Daddy.” Xander was whimpering now.

“Shhhh. It’s okay, Baby Boy.” He stroked Xander’s hair back, loving the way Xander leaned into his hand. “I don’t think I will punish you that way. It’s too much fun to hear those little noises you make when Daddy fucks you and makes you come. You like that, don’t you, when Daddy fucks your pretty little arse?”

“Yes, Daddy,” Xander panted. “Love it when you fuck me.”

“Yes, you do. Love it when Daddy shoves his hard cock into your pretty little hole.” Angel dropped his hand to the bulge in Xander’s khakis, squeezing firmly, his own cock straining against his zipper.

Xander hissed at the contact, then moaned when the vampire slid his hand back into his shirt again, squeezing and tugging at his vulnerable nipples.

“I’m thinkin’ I’ll give ye a spankin’ instead, put ye right over m’ lap and smack yer pretty arse fire-red, until yer all hot and cryin’ fer me, then spread ye wide and fuck ye good an’ hard until ye remember t’ behave yersel’ in future. How does that sound, Baby? Want Daddy t’ give y’ a good hard spankin’?”

“Yes, Daddy.”

Xander’s voice shivered with lust, and Angel gave him a slow smile. “Such a good boy, likes his punishment, doesn’t he?”

Wordless, Xander nodded his head so vehemently that his hair flapped. Angel laughed then, his own arousal at fever point. “Well, then, go on yer way. Be ready fer me when I come in.”

With that, Xander scrambled out of the passenger side of the Plymouth, slamming the heavy door behind him, and made tracks into the mansion.

Angel followed at a leisurely pace, retrieving the forgotten care package. He took his time, stowing the food in the kitchen, then checking the locks before climbing the stairs. Opening the door of the master bedroom, he smiled at the sight before him.

The lamp beside the bed illuminated his Xander sitting naked, waiting for him, arms wrapped around updrawn knees.

He stood silently for a time, drinking in the sight of his mate gazing up at him, soft eyes dark with desire. The next part of their ritual was very important to Angel; what they were about to do gave pleasure to both of them, but the Master/slave relationship between Xander and Angelus had been at times less than completely consensual. Now, Angel needed this next bit to fully enjoy their play.

He closed the door behind him and took off his jacket, hanging it carefully on a hook on the wall, then turned back to the bed and opened his arms. Instantly, Xander sprang off the bed and flung himself into Angel’s embrace, naked body snuggling close to the vampire’s clothed form.

“I love you.” Angel murmured into the soft dark hair.

“Love you, too.” Xander pressed closer, letting the vampire feel his desire.

“Daddy’s going to punish you now. Is that okay with you?” Strong hands stroked gently up and down Xander’s back.

His boy leaned back in the circle of his arms to smile up at him. “Yes, Daddy. Want you to punish me so I can be your good boy.”

“You’re already m’ good boy.” Angel brought his hand up to cup the back of Xander’s head in that habitual gesture of protection. “Why does Daddy punish you, Little One?”

“Because you love me.”

“That’s right, Baby.” He touched his lips softly to Xander’s. “I love you. You’re my treasure.”

With that, Angel led Xander by the hand to the edge of the bed, seating himself at an angle so that, when he urged Xander down over his lap, the boy’s legs hung free, but his torso was supported by the mattress.

The vampire took his time, savoring the sight of his sweetling draped across his lap. After running his hand soothingly up and down his love’s smooth back for a while, he spread the silky cheeks with one hand, the other stroking a strong thigh. Even after all this time, Xander squirmed in embarrassment at the vampire’s inspection of his most secret place.

“Now, now, will you be still an’ behave yersel’, or must I restrain ye?”

Angel smiled as the little pink opening twitched and clenched at his question.

“I’m sorry. I’ll be good.”

“Aye, best ye do.”

Taking his time, Angel wet one fingertip in his mouth and brushed it against Xander’s hole, then blew lightly on the moistened aperture, watching it spasm at his touch as Xander groaned softly and the boy’s hard length against Angel’s thigh made a little wet patch on the fabric of his trousers.

“My own perfect little playground. Can hardly wait to get inside it, Baby.”

“Me too, Daddy.” Xander was panting now.

“Then best get on with it, hadn’t I, Precious?” He moved his hands then, stroking up and down his boy’s silky back and thighs before planting one hand securely on Xander’s lower back, holding him steady while the other rose then descended on the firm buttocks.

Xander gasped as the first almost playful slap was followed by another, slightly harder one. Angel escalated the force of his blows gradually, slowly building up from a mild stinging to a hot, throbbing burn. He took his time, alternating spanking one firm cheek then the other for a while, then adding a few blows low down and right in the center, with a slight upward pressure that made Xander groan as he felt the vibrations in his sensitive anus.

Angel took it slow, patiently spanking his boy until the cock wetting his thigh was as hard as rock, and the rest of Xander was soft and yielding, whimpering softly into the bedding.

When Angel smelled tears and felt the soft sobs trembling through his mate’s frame, he stopped the spanking and stroked the hot flesh for a few moments, then turned his mate over, pulling him upright and seating him in his lap, cuddling him close. It wasn’t unusual for Xander to cry during such sessions, but Angel knew his boy well enough to know it wasn’t physical pain that brought on the tears.

Any one who had any experience with BDSM knew that part of the pleasure of such activities was the emotional purging that they made possible. So, always, when Xander cried, Angel stopped to take his boy’s emotional temperature.

Now, he cradled Xander and brought his hand up to cup the back of Xander’s head, a gesture that always meant safety. Noting that Xander’s cock was still hard enough to pound nails, he asked softly, “Tears, Sweet Baby? Did Daddy spank too hard?”

Xander smiled tremulously, tightened his arms around the vampire’s neck and buried his face into Angel’s neck.

“Shh. Shh. Wanna talk to Daddy?”

After a moment, Xander answered, his voice muffled against Angel’s throat. “I’m sorry.”

“None o’ that, Baby. Just tell me what ye’re feelin’. Ye know Daddy always cares about yer feelin’s.”

Sniffling softly, Xander drew back to look at his love’s face. “Sometimes, when…when we do this, I just feel like…” He paused, trying to find the right words. “Like I’m in this good place, and all the bad stuff is just…just fading away. And I feel so safe, and I can let it all go.” He dropped his eyes. “That sounds really dumb, doesn’t it?”

Angel stroked the back of Xander’s head and leaned forward to lick away the salty tears trembling on his boy’s cheeks and eyelashes. “No, Baby. That sounds just right. That’s why ye get spankings, my Baby. So ye can go t’ that safe place, where ye know that ye’re mine, and no one gets to hurt ye but me, and that only happens if it’s okay wit’ ye. An’ ye can cry, or get angry, or fight me, or laugh, and ye know that no matter what, ye’re safe.”

Xander, profoundly grateful that Angel understood, that he always understood, cupped his hands around the vampire’s face and kissed him, moaning softly as the vampire’s soft lips opened to him, letting him have his way.

Angel growled softly as Xander’s tongue swept in and out of his mouth again and again. One hand continued to cup his boy’s skull, the other kneading Xander’s hip. Long minutes passed as they kissed, Angel gradually reclaiming his dominance until Xander was soft and yielding in his arms, sighing into his vampire’s masterful kisses.

Angel tore his mouth away and looked down into Xander’s flushed, heavy-eyed face. “Enough, Baby. Daddy wants you now. Are y’ ready for me?”

“Yes, please, Daddy. Now.”

With one last, hard kiss, Angel lifted Xander off his lap and stood, bending the naked youth over the high mattress. Caught up in sudden urgency, Angel didn’t take the time to undress, just opened his zipper, extracting his hard, aching length. The lube was at hand, and he soon had thick fingers thrusting into Xander, stretching him almost roughly.


Slicking himself quickly, Angel spread his mate’s reddened cheeks with one hand, lining himself up with the other, and thrust in hard with an exultant shout.

Xander keened softly as he was entered and filled, his hands bunching the covers by his head.

“Gods, yes. I’ll never get tired of this, my Baby. Never get tired of being inside you, Sweet. Feels so good.” Buried to the root in his mate’s warm, willing body, Angel stroked loving hands down Xander’s smooth back, then gripped his boy’s hips firmly and pulled nearly all the way out, then shoved back in, loving the sound of Xander’s soft moans.

It didn’t last long; the feel of Angel’s hard body inside of his, stroking hard, and the firm edge of the mattress against his own aching length soon had Xander crying out, coming hard, the contractions of his own body bringing Angel along with him.

Angel withdrew himself carefully, then bent over Xander, stroking up his arms gently. “Don’t move, Baby. Stay right where you are.”

In a daze of contentment, Xander did as he was told and stayed still, bent spread-eagled over the bed. A few minutes passed, then he heard Angel return, and a warm, wet cloth was caressing him, cleaning away the residue of their passion. Almost asleep, Xander let himself be tumbled naked into the bed, smiling drowsily as the now naked vampire joined him there, gathering him close against a strong body.

“I’m thinkin’ that Sunnydale’s not s’ bad after all, m’ Precious.”

Xander smiled, snuggling close, but fell asleep before he could think of a reply.





Part Three

The same night, on Revello Drive:

Buffy rested her head on Spike’s marble-smooth chest, took a few minutes to get her breath back, then returned to the earlier subject. “I still can’t believe that it turned out to be Xander of all people who managed to de-fang Angelus.” She rubbed her nose idly between Spike’s pectoral muscles, breathing in his scent laced with hers.

Spike frowned, then tugged lightly on his Slayer’s blonde hair to tilt her face up to meet his eyes. “Don’t make the mistake o’ thinkin’ he’s de-fanged, Luv. Soul’s there, but demon is too, and he’s still a vicious beast. Whelp’s got him on a leash, is all. And if that leash gets slipped…”

Buffy peered up at him, worried now. “Are you saying you think he’s dangerous?”

Spike watched her, choosing his words carefully. “I believe what they tell us; maybe you lot couldn’t really tell, but I could. They weren’t exaggeratin’, about Angelus bein’ there. He’s out. He’s there. Soul’s in there with him, but not like before. I could sense him. Yeah, I believe he’s make a promise not t’ kill, for his boy’s sake; that’s pure Angelus. Always did like his blood oaths and such shite. And he may be a mean, sadistic bastard, but when he makes an oath, he keeps it. But, Buffy, he’s got an incredible capacity for obsession. I’ve seen it.”

Buffy stared up at him, listening closely. She wondered if Spike even knew that his accent slipped from time to time, usually when speaking about something he took very seriously. She didn’t think he did, but she had learned to pay close attention when Spike began to sound like Giles.

“It’s one thing that doesn’t change whether the demon or the soul is in charge. He’s profoundly single-minded. And I’ve never seen anything obsess him the way Xander does. Yes, he’ll probably be bound by his oath, no matter what. But still, that kind of focused devotion is something that bears watching.”

Almost forcing himself to relax, he smiled at Buffy, stroking her hair, himself again. “Don’t mean t’ spook y’, luv. Just, there’s a world o’ difference between a tame beast an’ a leashed one” He jostled her gently. “Just don’t want y’ t’ forget what kind o’ beast we’re dealin’ with, yeah? Just bein’ cautious, right, pet?”

“Point taken.” Buffy looked at him gravely, then leaned up on one elbow to comb gentle fingers through the tousled platinum curls. “Know what? Without Giles here, you’re for all practical purposes my Watcher.”

At his laugh, a sharp, surprised sound, she rapped lightly on his forehead. “Don’t laugh, I mean it. You know a lot, you give me advice, you train with me and watch my back. The council couldn’t send me anyone that would be better at it.” Grinning at the half-touched, half-affronted look that appeared on her vampire’s countenance, she added “Just don’t start wearing tweed, okay? ‘Cause that would just be weird.”

“Don’t mind bein’ yer Watcher, pet, though I don’t think the council would be too happy with the arrangement. Still…” He rolled her onto her back, “…long as I can be a Watcher with privileges…”

“That’s the best kind.” Buffy writhed against him teasingly.

“Thought so.” He stole a kiss, then backed up to gaze into her eyes with mock seriousness. “Now, that said, ‘s there anythin’ you want to tell me about you an’ Rupert?”

Buffy’s eyes grew round, then she smacked him sharply. “Oh, Spike, eeuuw! He’s like my father! And could you avoid that kind of talk in bed? ‘Cause, hello? Sexy as industrial waste!”

“I think the lady doth protest too much.” Spike leered at her, hands roaming.

Outraged, Buffy began to poke him in the ribs, finding the ticklish spots.

“Aha, I knew it!” gasped Spike, struggling for control as Buffy flipped him over, continuing her assault.

Laughing, the two of them rolled around carrying on like trash until Willow banged on the adjoining wall and yelled at them to knock it off already.

At that, they froze, half-amused, half-abashed, until Buffy gazed into the blue eyes twinkling up at her and bent to claim a soft kiss. “You know what? You’re the most fun I’ve ever had.”

Spike deepened the kiss for a time, then tugged gently on her hair to meet her eyes. “No regrets then, luv? Not even a little bit sorry that you’re not the one over in that big bed on Crawford Street with Angel?”

Buffy didn’t have to think about that one. “Nope. Absolutely not. I love you. Plus, no offense to your sire, but he’s a little bit too serious for me. Not much sense of play. And it turns out that I really like to play.”

Spike, pleased by her reply, smirked and wriggled purposely under her firm little body. “Yeah, he’s a gloomy old git. Well, then, wanna play a bit more, Slayer?”

Choosing to respond with actions rather than words, Buffy nuzzled down Spike’s cheek to catch an ear in sharp little teeth, making him gasp.

****************

Across town, refreshed by a short sleep, Xander thrashed back and forth on that big bed in the mansion on Crawford Street, trying to suppress unmanly squeals as Angel, teeth flashing white, mock-wrestled with him, growling playfully, nipping very lightly here and there, deliberately hitting all the ticklish spots until his boy’s giggles could no longer be restrained.

The vampire looked down at Xander lying breathless and flushed beneath him, tears of laughter sparkling in the warm brown eyes. Angel laughed, too, the rich sound rolling up from his chest as he caught his boy into a tight embrace.


************


Promptly at 9:35 a.m. the next morning, a slightly heavy-eyed Willow rushed into the Espresso pump, dropping her book bag and flopping into a chair opposite Buffy.

“You’re late.” Buffy mumbled, suppressing a yawn.

“I came as soon as my class let out. My class that I almost slept through.” Willow pinned her friend with a reproachful glare. “You know, what with the inability to sleep most of last night.” Seeing the hint fly over Buffy’s head with no apparent effect, she sighed. “What’s the rush, anyway? We’re not supposed to meet Xander ‘til ten.”

“I wanted to talk before he gets here. I’m worried about him.”

Willow paused to order a much-needed double latte, then turned her attention back to Buffy. “Worried? What for? Is something wrong?”

Buffy gave her a disbelieving look. “Hello? And you’ve been where? He’s living with Angelus.”

Willow blinked at her. “What? You’re just getting around to worrying about this now? Talk about delayed reaction.”

Buffy stirred her coffee pensively. “I’ve always been worried. Just, Spike and I talked about it last night…”

“You talked last night?” Willow muttered acerbically. “When did you have time for conversation?”

Ignoring her, the Slayer continued. “Spike sensed his Sire’s presence. I mean, Angelus, without soul. All that stuff about Angelus being out and aware, I didn’t really get it before. Now I do. And I’m worried. How can we be sure that Xander’s safe?”

Willow accepted her beverage from the petite blonde server with a grateful and ever-so-slightly flirtatious smile, then returned her attention to the subject. “We can’t.” Subject closed, she sipped experimentally, then added a bit more cinnamon.

“That’s all you’re going to say? Aren’t you worried?”

Willow drew a deep breath and set down her cup. “Worried? Of course I’m worried. I’ve been worried for years. We live on the Hellmouth. Weird shit happens on a daily basis. You can’t swing a dead cat without smacking into some kind of danger or death or evil or something. I’ve got this power that has gotten away from me spectacularly on at least one occasion. Two of my three best friends are bedding down with creatures of the night. My third best friend is one of those creatures of the night. Should I go on?”

“But Xander…”

“But Xander nothing.” Willow’s eyes grew distant as her mind drew a picture of a younger Xander lying wounded and unconscious in bed with a worried demon hovering over him. A demon who had given her safe passage for Xander’s sake.

Willow came out of her brief memory wearing her resolve face. “Leave it alone, Buffy. If I’ve learned anything in my life, it has to do with the dangers of well-meaning interference in your friends’ lives when they’re happy.” She arched an eyebrow with a significant air. “And Xander IS happy.” Her eyes were pleading. “I’ve known Xander since nursery school, and he’s never had a chance to be happy. Now he is. Leave it alone, okay?”

Buffy opened her mouth as though to argue, but Willow cut her off.

“Look, when you and Spike were talking about this--and I’m still wondering exactly when there was a discussion break--did he say anything about trying to get in the middle of this? Did HE think it was a good idea to try to do something?”

Buffy hesitated. “Well, no. He just said we should be watchful…”

“Great!” Willow would have bounced if she had had a little more energy. “Watchful is okay. Watchful is great. JUST watchful, okay?”

“Okay.” The tone was slightly grudging. “Watchful only.” Hazel eyes met Willow’s. “You’re really not the least bit concerned?”

The Witch rolled her eyes. “And I repeat. Hellmouth, here. Always concerned. But…” again with the pointed glare “If I’m losing sleep over anyone’s vampire lovin’, it’s NOT Xander’s.”

This time, Buffy got the point and dropped her eyes guiltily. “Sorry, Will.” She blushed, hiding a grin. “Spike’s kind of, you know, vocal.”

The red eyebrow arched gracefully again. The lessons from a certain sardonic vampire were paying off. “Don’t think you can put all the blame on Spike, Little Miss OhGodYesPleaseMoreHarder.”

“WILLOW!” Buffy squealed, then looked around furtively, her dainty rose flush morphing into a livid beet-red. “Do you mind? Public place, here. And it’s not like you don’t ever…”

Willow grinned. “Yeah, but my little indiscretions aren’t seismic events.” She thought for a moment. “Not that they couldn’t be, but, hey, consideration.” She folded her arms. “You know, like for one’s housemates?”

“Alright, already.” Buffy grumbled sulkily. “So, planning on letting me off the hook any time soon?”

“Yup.” She nodded once, decisively. “Just as soon as I’m absolutely sure that I’ve successfully distracted you from any misguided attempts to interfere with Xander’s love life.”

“What, by giving me a complex? Thanks a lot. Couldn’t you have distracted me with knock-knock jokes or something?”

“Sorry.” Willow grinned impenitently, eyes twinkling over the top of her cup.

“Oh, yeah? Well, just wait ‘til I tell Spike that you’re the reason I’m suddenly all inhibited.” She gestured menacingly with her straw, sprinkling the tabletop liberally with mocha-flavored foam. “You’ll be in trouble then.”

Willow shivered theatrically. “Ooooh, I’m scared! Tell him I’ll make it up to him. Oh, hey, I know! Tell him I’ll wear that fuzzy pink number with the lilac underneath.”

Open-mouthed, Buffy blinked at her friend, then dissolved into giggles. “Thanks, but I’ll leave that snappy comeback to you.”

“Yeah, ‘cause you might get in trouble for sassing the vampire. Oh, but wait! You LIKE getting in trouble for sassing the vampire.”

“JEEZ, Willow! One-track mind, much?” Amused in spite of herself, Buffy propped an elbow on the table and leaned her chin in her palm. “What’s got you in such rare form, anyway?” She held up her hand to forestall the response she could see coming. “Besides the fact that you’re giddy from sleep deprivation which is entirely my fault.”

“Taking responsibility is a good thing.” She smirked at Buffy’s eye roll, then continued, her voice softening. “I’m just really happy Xander’s here, you know? I didn’t realize how much I was missing him.”

“I know. Me too.” Buffy smiled, then glanced up at the clock over the counter. “Speaking of missing Xander, he is. Missing, I mean. He should be here by now.”

“He’ll show.” Unconcerned, Willow gestured to the waitress. “He never was Mr. Punctuality, remember? Besides, he’s on vacation.”

*****************

“C’mon. You’re on vacation. They won’t mind if you’re a little late.” Angel lolled naked on the sheets, doing his best impression of a centerfold model.

“I’m already a little late. By the time I get there, I’m going to be a lot late.” Xander hopped on one foot, struggling into his khakis while searching for his shoes and avoiding temptation by carefully not looking in his vampire’s direction. Spotting a Nike half-under the bed, he ducked in, nabbed it, then danced quickly out of Angel’s reach.

“Nice try, Mr. Grabby Hands. Oh, man, look at the time. What happened to your no-fail demon body clock, anyway? Why didn’t you wake me up?”

Angel stretched luxuriantly then tucked his hands under his head. “Sorry. I know I said I would, but you were so sound asleep I hated to wake you. Besides…” He rolled onto his side, propped himself up on one elbow and smiled lazily. “I was so comfortable, with you nestled against me, all warm and sweet, your beautiful bare ass pressed up against my…”

“NGYAHHH!” Xander dropped his wallet and pressed his hands over his ears. “I can’t hear you, lalala.” Glaring at the grinning vampire, Xander lowered his hands cautiously. “Now cut it out, you! Hard though it is to resist your considerable charms, I am not standing Wills and Buffy up.”

“Don’t have to stand them up, sweet.” He plucked up the cellphone by the bed and tossed it to Xander. “Just give ‘em a call and cancel; tell them that, er, something came up.”

Xander fumbled the catch, distracted by the sight of Angel smoothing a languid hand down his own firm, pale abdomen, inching toward paradise. Locking his eyes in the general vicinity of Angel’s forehead, he got his grip on the phone. “Cancel, no. Phone, yes. I can at least let them know I’m on my way.” He started to punch in Willow’s number.

Angel mustered up enough breath to heave a sigh. “Well, I guess if you’re sure you wouldn’t rather stay here with Daddy…”

Xander froze as the blood rushed to his crotch so fast that he forgot the rest of Willow’s number, and why he was calling her, and who was this Willow person anyway?

“Evil! You’re evil!” He pointed an accusing finger at the vampire on the bed. “Oh, God! Not the pout.” Relenting, he moved to the bed and kissed his vampire, grabbing Angel’s wrists before skilled hands could make enough naughty contact to wreck his resolve.

“Two hours, tops. I promise, ‘kay?”

Another deeply felt sigh. “Okay. I’ll just be waiting for you, all alone and naked in the bed here.”

“Bastard.” Xander’s tone was stern even as he rubbed noses affectionately with his pouty vampire. “You just wait. You’ll get yours.”

“Boy, I hope so. In two hours, tops. Right?”

“Absolutely. Don’t start without me.” One more quick peck, and Xander was out the door, phone in hand, relatively certain that his higher brain functions would return once he got out of thrall-distance. As he started down the hall, he heard Angel having the last word.

“You know that they’re going to want to talk about your sex life, don’t you?”


***********

“That was Xander. He’s on his way.” Willow dropped her phone into her bag.

“Thank God.” Buffy started on a fresh cup. “Now we can talk about his sex life, instead of mine.”




tbc?




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