Pairing : Spike/Xander
Prompt: [info]c2c_buffyawards fic challenge theme: Penny for your Thoughts
Character : Angel
Rating : R
Author: skargasm
Word Count : 1654
Summary: To destroy a family, you take out the heart....
A/N : I came third in the [info]c2c_buffyawards



The Heart


by
Skargasm


He watched them. He couldn't seem to help himself – they were unendingly fascinating to him. They walked into the Magic Box, laughing in spite of being pretty much covered in demon goo. Xander ran his hands through Spike's hair, flicking the goo in the direction of the floor before wrapping his arms around the blond and hugging him tight. They did that a lot – hugged, kissed, groped – all in public. Angel had never thought he would see the day that Xander Harris, demon-bait extraordinaire and all round vamp-hater would be seen making out with a vampire. In front of all of his friends. Frequently.

Behind them, Willow, Tara, Giles and Dawn walked into the shop. Willow was smiling, glowing with pride as she listened avidly to Giles praise her use of her spells in their defence. Dawn was chattering away about finally being allowed to fight, and how awesome it was to be playing a part in keeping Sunnydale safe, following in her sister's footsteps. Tara smiled shyly as she headed into the kitchen to put the kettle on, watching her family through her fringe. Much like he was watching them, but he was most definitely an outsider looking in.

Angel heard footsteps, and watched as Anya came up from the stockrooms, mumbling about pricing and how she and Rupert could turn an extra profit if they simply charged for the materials used during slaying. It was an oft-repeated refrain, and Angel had heard it so many times he could have said the words along with her. Of course, if he did, they would realise he was there and he didn't want that. He didn't know how much longer he would continue to watch them unseen and unheard, but at the moment he needed it.

This was Buffy's family – the people she had died for – and he watched them in an attempt to decide whether her sacrifice had been worth it. Flying off that tower, closing the portal and sentencing Glory to living out the rest of her (very) short-lived time on an earth free from her dominion. Not that Glory got to see much more in the way of time – Giles saw to that. And Angel knew if Giles hadn't done it, the boy would have done. He had seen Xander in action many a time now, and he knew to what lengths the boy would go to protect his family.

And always he came back to the boy. Willow hadn't changed since Angel had known her in high school – always eager for approval, looking towards the teacher or now, the Watcher, for the pat on the head that said she had done good. Tara followed where Willow led, in spite of the fact that she obviously held more power in her little finger than Willow had in her entire body. Tara's magic was earth magic, blessed by the Mother, a fresh cool breeze.

Dawn hadn't changed. Oh she was taller, her voice was louder and if it were humanly possible, grated even more on him than it had before. But she was still little Dawnie, desperate to emulate her sister, to fit in and belong. Giles hadn't changed. He'd been devastated by the death of his slayer and Angel had expected him to run away, fly back to England and leave the rest of them to cope on their own. But he had stayed. No doubt, Spike's doing – Angel had only heard half of what his aggravating childe had screamed at the Watcher - that there was more to Sunnydale than his precious Slayer, that the other 'children' needed him too – but it had obviously been an effective speech. Giles had climbed his way out of the bottle and bent his shoulder to the task of helping the others survive – no, not just survive, but thrive. The family that slay together, stay together.

Back to the boy. The heart of the group, the one who kept them all together. Funny, Xander never realised that – always bemoaning his fate as the token human, throwing himself into impossible situations and surviving by luck more than judgement. Xander was the one who dealt with the aftermath of Buffy's death – burials, insurance, the sale of the house, custody battle for Dawn. He was the only one who held down a responsible job, who had any semblance of a life that could survive scrutiny. Dealt with all of that, helped with the slaying, and made Spike fall in love with him. Not that it was hard – William was a sucker for dark hair and dark eyes, love's bitch as he often called himself.

Shifting slightly, Angel leaned against the wall and once more let his mind wonder over the thing that confused him the most. How the hell his William and Xander Harris ever managed to fall in love? Oh he knew the romantic story – getting drunk together after Buffy died, new-found respect for each other with slaying and Dawn, an unexpected kiss that led to – well, this. Watching William and Xander in the Magic Box, Xander sat on the stairs straddled by Will, kissing. The White Knight and the Demon. Sounded like a romance novel or something.

It hurt. To see them all carrying on, to see them happy. Watch as they carried on without her. Shouldn't they be in more pain? Shouldn't they still be suffering, be crippled by her loss? He was. Cordelia had gone, tired out by brooding above and beyond the call of duty as she described it. Wes and Gunn had gone too. The last he had heard, they had banded together, formed their own agency. And he was alone. His demon writhed within him, desperate to get out, to rend/tear/destroy – anything to get past this mindless grief. And he knew what the demon wanted to destroy – Xander Harris, the heart of it all. Take him away and the rest of them would crumble. Spike would walk into the sun – he had given his whole heart to this one and wouldn't survive the loss. Giles would blame himself once more, and there would be no way of convincing him to stay. Willow would fall to pieces without her Xander – he was her anchor, the one who knew her the best. Once they were gone, Tara and Dawn would be as nothing. It would be a fitting tribute to the Slayer – his demon both respected and hated her, his soul loved her more than anything else in his 240 years.

He let himself dwell on how he would do it: how best to kill the boy, display him to cause the most pain, fear and heartbreak; press on their weak points until they fell apart. He wouldn't risk turning him – a vampire Xander would be a terror, potentially more dangerous than Angelus himself, but he wouldn't put it past the boy to go against everything and stake his sire. Xander did not forgive or forget, and somehow Angel knew that would carry over into any demonic incarnation of him.

As Angel watched, the Watcher went behind the counter with Anya, the hand at the base of her spine practically a passionate gesture, so obviously taking quiet pleasure in the feel of her against his skin. Dawn ran off to the training room, still chattering away to Willow who followed behind. He turned his head back to Xander and Spike, unconsciously leaning forward to hear what they were saying.

“'Course it hurts luv, she can be so much like the Slayer. But you did the right thing, letting the Bit come out with us. She needs to know she has a place too – that she can play her part.”

“But what if something happens to her – I.....we wouldn't survive another loss, Spike. And I know you swore to Buffy to keep Dawn safe.” He watched as Spike tugged the boy's head into his chest, stroking his back.

“Yeah Pet, I swore. But the best way we can honour her is the way we are doing, yeah? Got another Summers firecracker on our hands, we do – reminds me so much of Buffy when she's fightin'. You know what Buffy said – right before she jumped?” Xander shook his head. “She said the hardest thing to do in this world is to live in it. And she made Bit promise she would do just that – live on for the Slayer. So that's what we're doing, yeah? All o'us. Honouring her by living in it – loving in it. S'what she would have wanted.”

For a moment, Angel was sure he could feel his heart breaking again. Buffy's last words – about living in the world – why did he have to hear about them now? He'd actually thought about faking the loss of his soul, forcing all of them to come after him and end this torment. He could end this in a bloodbath worthy of the Watcher's Chronicles, make it so that re-souling him was not even considered as an option – dusting the only way. Xander would do it too – ensure that his very existence ended. And he deserved no less than ending up in Hell – when the call had come about Glory, he'd been too busy to come and help, had reminded Buffy of her words, that Sunnydale wasn't his town anymore. His words tasted like so much vampire ash in his mouth. No, he wouldn't be doing any of the macabre and evil thoughts in his head. He would leave the heart of the family alone, take some solace in the fact that Buffy's legacy was in the safest of hands.

He turned away from the Slayer's family and walked away – lost, alone and tormented by his thoughts.




The End



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