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Pairing: Spike/Xander eventually, but Xander/Angel for now.
Summary: In the summer following the Master’s death, Xander has a run-in with a demon and Angel is the only one who can help.
Notes: I rewatched first season, and this just sort of bit me on the ass.






Carpe Noctem


by
Sorrel





Part One
Changes



Even years later, Xander would swear that it wasn’t his fault.

Of course, everyone else would argue that of course it was his fault- what the hell was he doing in the cemetery after dark, anyway? It’s a shortcut, he’d argue back, and then everyone would laugh.

A shortcut to where, Buffy would scoff, an early death?

But he maintained that it wasn’t his fault. He’d promised Willow that he would meet her at the movies at exactly eight o’clock, and when he was late due to a drunken shouting match between his parents, all he could think was that he had to make it there on time, or Willow would want to know why. So he’d taken the shortcut, and since there hadn’t been any demonic activity at all, all summer, it couldn’t be too unsafe, right?

Wrong.






Giles was having a very relaxing evening with his books and a cup of tea. Music that was actually music- rather than the meaningless noise that his Slayer called music- was pouring out of speakers, and Giles was reveling in the peace and quiet of a nice evening at home.

Then the pounding at his door commenced. Honestly, Giles wondered why he was at all surprised. Quiet evening, enjoying the peace- naturally, some disaster would occur. It was Murphy’s Law.

Sighing, he marked his place in his book and went to answer. He opened it, then immediately opened it wider and ushered the two teenagers on his doorstep into his home.

“Get inside. Christ. What happened to you two?”

“Nothing happened to me,” Willow panted, helping a staggering and bleeding Xander across the room to the couch. “Just to him. I’m not sure what happened, exactly- we were supposed to meet at the movies, and I was starting to get worried about him when he showed up, looking like this. He said something about the graveyard and a demon, but that’s all I’ve gotten out of him.”

More worried than he wanted to admit, Giles crouched in front of the boy on his couch. “Xander? Xander, can you hear me?”

Xander rolled his head weakly. “Can hear you fine, G-man,” he said, with a ghost of his usual grin. “Though there seem to be two of you.”

“Xander, what happened?”

“Was late. Cut through the graveyard. Ran into a demon. It cut me up, but I killed it with a rock. Not the hardest head in the world, I’m guessing. Hit it in the head and it collapsed like a puppet with the strings cut. Ran away, made it to the movie theatre. Wills was pacing all over the place, took one look at me and brought me here.” He was silent for a minute. “Giles? I don’t feel so good.”

“I should say not. You’re covered in blood.”

“No, not that. I mean, I feel sick. Hot. So fucking hot.” He tossed his head restlessly, kicked weakly at the blanket Giles was trying to cover him with.

Giles and Willow exchanged a worried glance. “Willow, why don’t you make some tea? Use the jar on the top shelf, all the way to the right- the one painted black. I’ll go get some bandages.”

Willow was in the kitchen with the water boiling and Giles was just coming back with the first aid supplies when he heard another knock at his door. Muttering under his breath, he dropped the supplies on the table and went to answer the door. Again.

Angel stood there, looking anxious, with his shoulders hunched and his hands tucked into his pockets. “Is everyone okay? I ran across a very dead Chellwith demon in the cemetery, smelled blood, and tracked it here.”

“Xander was injured, but he seems to be- Chellwith? Did you say Chellwith demon?”

“Yeah. Xander was injured?”

“Oh, no,” Giles said, and turned back to the injured youth on the couch without another thought to the vampire still standing in his doorway. “Xander, the demon you ran across- was it about six feet tall, with three horns on its forehead?”

“Yeah, that was the one,” Xander said, and his voice seemed weaker than it had just a minute ago. “Why? Is it bad?”

“Fairly so,” Giles admitted. “It cut you with its claws?”

“Yeah,” Xander said. “Why?”

“Chellwith demons have a certain... poison, in their claws,” Giles admitted cautiously. “It has a rather rapid effect, as I’m sure you’ve noticed.”

“Oh,” Xander said. “That would explain the fever, wouldn’t it?”

“Yes, it would,” Giles said grimly, and raised his voice. “Willow? Could you hurry up with the tea, please?”

“Sure,” Willow called back easily. “What’s going on?”

“We seem to have a bit of a... situation, on our hands.”

Willow immediately hurried out, only to stop and stare with surprise at Angel, who was still standing on the doorstep, looking awkward. “What’s he doing here?”

“He saw the dead demon and tracked Xander’s blood here,” Giles said grimly. “Willow, I need that tea. It should slow the poison’s progress through Xander’s veins.”

“Poison? Wait, when did the poison thing happen?”

“The claws that cut Xander were filled with a very fast-acting poison,” Giles said impatiently. “Unless we act quickly, Xander could-“ He stopped, suddenly remembering that Xander could hear every word.

“Die?” Xander finished for him. “It’s okay, Giles. I think I already knew.” He looked pensive for a moment. “This tea, it’s not a cure? It’s just a temporary measure.”

Not trusting his voice, Giles nodded.

“Is there a cure at all?”

“I don’t know of any,” Giles finally admitted. “Though I’m sure that, given just a little time, I could find one.”

“Do we have time?” Xander asked. “I don’t think so. I can feel it moving. I can feel it getting worse. In a few minutes I’m not going to be able to talk anymore. I already can’t move.”

“I know a cure,” Angel said into the following silence. When everyone looked at him, he winced and said, “You’re not going to like it, though.”

“For God’s sake, man, Xander’s life in on the line, here,” Giles snapped. “Hurry and tell us the cure.”

“The blood of a vampire.”

You could have heard a pin drop in the following silence. “You want to turn me?” Xander demanded. “No fucking way.”

“You’re not talking about turning, are you, Angel?” Giles said softly.

“No. To turn a victim, you need to drain them till they’re near death and them give them your blood. I’m only giving you my blood, without draining you, and it will only be enough to heal you.”

“You’re sure I won’t be a vampire?” Xander said suspiciously. “How can I trust you?”

“Xander, shut up and let the nice vampire save your life,” Willow snapped. The other three looked over at her with surprise at her unusual vehemence. “I’m not going to sit here and watch you die if you have a chance to live,” she said, more softly. “No way. If something happens, well, at least we tried. I’m not going to let you go without a fight. I love you too much for that.”

Xander smiled painfully at her. “Alright, Wills,” he said slowly. “For you.” He looked over at Angel, and his expression went hard and tight- with pain, and with determination. “Do it.”

Slowly, Angel approached the couch.






For someone who was dying the day before, Xander felt pretty good. Really good, in fact. Better than ever. He stretched, pressing his hands against the headboard, and heard a loud crack echo through the room.

Whoa.

He sat up so fast his head spun and whirled around to see the damage. Somehow, just by pressing against it, he had broken the friggin’ headboard. That was... very not normal.

“Oh, listen, Xander’s awake,” he heard Willow say, and then footsteps crossing a room before thudding on the stairs.

What? He’d heard her voice, as clearly as if she’d been standing right beside him, and she’d been in the kitchen?

“Xander, how are you feeling?” Willow said, flying into the room, and he shook his head to clear it because he could hear her heartbeat, and he could smell her shampoo from clear across the room. “I’m... okay?” His voice made the last word a question.

“You look good,” Willow said critically, then caught a glimpse of the headboard. “Xander Harris, what happened?”

“I didn’t mean to!” He looked pleadingly at Giles when the older man came into the bedroom. “I just stretched, and somehow I cracked the headboard. I didn’t mean to!”

“I believe you,” Giles said soothingly. “Xander, do you feel... different? Changed, somehow?”

“Yeeees,” he said slowly, looking around the room. “I can see a lot better than I did before. I heard Willow talking all the way in the kitchen. I can smell the bacon cooking in the next house over. I broke the headboard just by pushing on it. I think it’s safe to say that I feel different.”

“Angel said there might be some... changes,” Giles said cautiously. “That you might awaken with some of the strength, and possibly the sense, of a vampire.”

“I’m a vampire?”

Willow looked pointedly at the stripe of sunlight that touched his skin. “No,” she said patiently. “He didn’t say that you were a vampire. Just that you had some of the stuff that vampires have.”

“So how do I have vampire strengths, without actually being a vampire? Mind sharing, Giles?”

“Vampire blood is very powerful,” Giles explained. “Taking Angel’s made you, well, partly a vampire is the best way to explain it. You have a lot of their strengths, such as more power, heightened senses, and I expect when you get up you’ll realize that you can move much faster. You are not, however, an actual vampire. You’re still alive. Surely you can hear your heart beating?”

Taking stock of himself for the first time since awakening, Xander nodded. “Yeah, okay. Not dead. That’s reassuring, at least.”

“And do you find yourself with a sudden craving for a little A pos?” Willow persisted.

“No,” he said. “I have a sudden craving for pancakes, and a need to talk to Angel.” He frowned. “Actually, I pretty much just need to see Angel. Talking or not. That’s creepy.”

“Well, he is, in a strange way, sort of your Sire,” Willow admitted. “I think it’s a vampire thing, needing to be with your Sire when you rise.”

“Hello? Not a vampire. Didn’t rise from my grave or anything. So why do I still have a craving to just be standing next to him?”





Part Two
Sire



Xander knew where Angel’s apartment was, and he was hoping against hope that Angel would be there. There was this pain in his chest, and it had nothing to do with being hungry. He’d had a huge breakfast as soon as he’d gotten up- way more than he could usually eat. Just another change on a growing list of changes, and every one could be placed at Angel’s door.

Of course, he also owed Angel his life, and that was why he wasn’t going to Angel’s place to spew condemnation at him. He was going to say a very nice thank you, and then demand what the hell was happening to him, because he wasn’t exactly used to having a desperate need just to see Angel. It rankled, especially when he didn’t even like Angel that much.

Thankfully, Angel opened when Xander knocked. The vampire didn’t look at all surprised to see him there, and after a moment’s consideration, Xander had to say that he wouldn’t have been surprised either. Angel obviously knew what was going on with him, so it followed that he’d have known that Xander would have needed to see him.

“Xander, come in,” Angel said. “I thought you’d be here, sooner or later.”

“Really?” Xander strolled past him, then stood in the middle of the living room, hands in his pockets, rocking on his heels. “Did you really, cause honestly? I didn’t think I’d be here anytime soon. So, can you tell me- why am I here?”

“It’s because you had my blood,” Angel said quietly, shutting the door behind him. “A lot of it. I wasn’t sure how much to give you, because you were pretty close to death as it was, and I was worried that it wasn’t going to work. But it obviously did.”

“Yeah, and thanks for that. I’m grateful for having my life back, honestly I am. It’s just... I hurt. All the way here, it was like my heart was on fire. And then you open the door, and it goes away. Why is that?”

“Blood,” Angel said again. “You’re not actually a vampire, but your blood thinks you are. And your blood wants to be near your Sire- which would be me, as far as it goes.”

“Well, cool, glad that’s explained, but what the hell can I do about it? I can’t exactly be with you 24-7, and I can’t function very well when I’m not with you.”

“It usually goes away with the first kill,” Angel said. “Human kill, that is. The only other way is...”

“Is?” Xander prompted. Angel remained silent. “C’mon, Deadboy, I’m not going to be killing anyone. What’s the other way?”

“To be claimed by your Sire,” Angel said quietly.

Xander was silent for a moment. “Please tell me that doesn’t mean what I think it means,” he said slowly. “Please tell me that I wear a little dog collar with your name on the tag. Tell me that you frigging well bite me again, just tell me it doesn’t mean...”

“Sex,” Angel said. “Yes. That’s what claiming is.”

“Shit,” Xander said succinctly, and whirled away to pace back and forth across the room. “You’re sure that there’s no other way?” he demanded. “Because really, really not liking this idea.”

“It’s not exactly my dream date either,” Angel snapped back. Xander curled his lip back from his teeth in a silent snarl and ignored that. “There’s no other way,” Angel said more gently. “Those are the only two options.”

“What happens if I choose door number three?” Xander said. “What happens if I do neither?”

“The pain will just get worse,” Angel said grimly. “I’ve seen it happen before. You either kill or get claimed by your Sire. There is no door number three.”

“Fuck that,” Xander said. “I’m leaving.”

“Xander, you’re not going to be able to keep going like this,” Angel said. “Soon you won’t be able to move. You’ll be crippled, wracked with pain from forehead to heels. Do you really want that?”

Xander cast a vicious glare over his shoulder. “Better than the alternative,” he snarled, and slammed out of the apartment.






“You’re sure?” Willow said.

“Well, he was sure,” Xander snapped. “And somehow, I don’t think this is all an elaborate plan to get in my pants. He looked about as happy with the idea of fucking me as I was with the idea of getting fucked.”

“That’s.... insane,” Willow said. “You can’t have sex with Angel. He’s... Angel.”

“Yeah, Wills, I noticed,” Xander said bitterly, and flopped back against the pile of pillows that Willow had put there for his comfort. “Even if he weren’t a guy, and a vampire, and someone I don’t like very much, I still wouldn’t have sex with him. I mean, hello, Buffy?”

“Not exactly good friend behavior to have sex with her boyfriend while she’s in LA,” Willow agreed. “You know, if it weren’t for the guy vampire and seething hatred thing.”

“Well, not so much seething hatred,” Xander said with a shrug. “More mild dislike. I mean, he did save my life and everything. Even if I currently resent the fact that I apparently have to either have sex with him, kill a person, or suffer blinding torment, I still have to be happy about the fact that I’m not dead.”

“Hey, I’m pretty happy about it too,” Willow said. “I just don’t like the sex or death or torment thing. That’s not so much of the good.”

“You’re telling me,” Xander said ruefully. “I just- Ah!” He curled around himself, clutching his stomach, his face screwed up in a grimace of pain.

“Xander?” Willow said hesitantly, touching his cheek with one cool hand. “Xander, are you okay?”

He slowly straightened again, and gave her a weak smile. “I’m fine. That was just a really bad one, is all. I’ll be okay in a minute.”

“Are you sure?” she said. “Because really, you don’t look very okay.”

“I’ll be okay,” he said determinedly, and left the rest of the thought unsaid. The part where he thought, I have to be. The alternative in unthinkable.






Willow was feeling less than comfortable with herself at the moment. It was three days after Xander’s... incident, and he was not doing well. At all. She’d finally had to take him out of his own house and install him at Giles’, where she was currently spending all of her free time, trying to make him as comfortable as possible.

She was less than successful.

Xander was in constant pain. She loaded him up with extra-strength painkillers and didn’t ask where Giles had gotten them, but they barely made a dent in the pain. For one thing, his new vamp-ness seemed to give him a resistance to medication of any kind, but the pain was also just so great that no amount of medication could get rid of it.

She was deeply worried about him. Angel’s words came back to her, filtered through Xander’s mocking and bitter voice: You either kill or get claimed by your Sire. There is no door number three.

She was starting to believe it- really believe it. Sure, she had listened to Xander when he’d told her and made all the appropriate noises, but inwardly she’d sort of passed it off as a cruel joke or something. But this- this she couldn’t ignore.

Giles was as worried as she was, but he was sure that he could find some sort of cure. Willow wasn’t so sure. She figured that Angel knew what he was talking about, and so if he said that there wasn’t another option, well, there probably wasn’t.

She just wasn’t sure what she was supposed to do about it. Xander had steadfastedly refused to go see Angel, though Willow guessed that Angel’s presence would probably at least alleviate the pain. The one time that she had called Angel and gotten him to come to Giles’ place, Xander had refused to even let him into the room. Willow wasn’t sure what to do.

Well, she actually was sure what to do. She just wasn’t sure if it was the right thing to do. It would be going against Xander’s wishes, that’s for damn sure, and she was probably betraying Buffy as well, but... this was her best friend. She wasn’t just going to let him die because he didn’t want to have sex.

Decision made, the only thing she had left to do was get it to happen.






Angel was feeling less than certain, himself. Willow had called him ten minute ago, and told him what would have to happen. She’d made all the arrangements, and had gotten Giles out of the house for a good while, but he wasn’t going to be gone forever. Angel stood in the hallway outside of Xander’s temporary room and tried to tell himself that he was doing the right thing.

It was just... This was Xander Harris. This wasn’t Buffy Summers, and she was the one he was in love with.

If he’d known this would happen, would he have... No, he had done the right thing in saving Xander’s life. And if he didn’t want all his efforts to be in vain, he would have to do this now.

Taking a deep and unnecessary breath, he opened the door.

Xander looked up at his entry, and his expression was not friendly. “I don’t want to see you,” he snapped. “Go away.”

“Willow called me,” Angel said. “She said that I should at least take a look at you, see if there was anything I could do.”

“You told me yourself- I could either sleep with you or kill someone. There’s nothing you can do that I’m going to let you do, so get the hell out.”

Angel took another deep breath. Christ, this was hard. “I can’t let you do that.”

Xander looked like you’d hit him over the head with a two-by-four. “What?”

His resolve crystallizing, Angel said firmly, “I’m not going to stand by while you die by inches. I’m going to fix this, for once and for all.”

“Oh no you’re not,” Xander said. “You stay away from me. We are so not going to do this.”

Angel took a determined step towards the bed. “We have to.”

“I am not going to betray Buffy like that.”

“Would Buffy rather you die?” Angel snapped. Xander drew back, and Angel gentled his voice. “Look, I love Buffy, more than anything in the world. I don’t exactly want to do this either. But as much as I love Buffy, I’m not going to let you die, and if she were here, I think she’d tell me to do exactly what I’m going to do.”

“I’m not going to let you,” Xander said, his voice weak but very firm. “So you might as well leave.”

“No.”

“What?”

“No, I’m not going to leave. No, because we’re going to do this. I’ve tried reasoning with you, but if that won’t work, well, too bad. We’re doing this anyway, and you’ve just lost your vote.”

“What? I definitely get a vote! I’m an American! I totally get a vote!”

“Not anymore you don’t,” Angel growled, and started to unbutton his shirt.






Xander lay on the bed, feeling like the survivor of a shipwreck. The crippling pain was gone, but it was replaced by a lingering soreness in his ass, and the way he felt at the moment, he almost wanted the crippling pain back.

He’d just done the worst thing in his life. He’d had sex with his best friend’s boyfriend, and that was just.... wrong. Wrong beyond all measure of wrong. He was moving into new realms of wrongness, and he wasn’t sure he wanted to be alive, not if he had to live through the guilt of doing what he’d just done.

The door creaked open, and he tried to find the energy to lift his head, but catching the person’s scent, realized that it wasn’t worth it. “Willow, I kinda want to be alone with my evil self right now.”

“You’re not evil,” she said, very firmly. “You’re the same Xander you’ve ever been. And I, for one, am thankful that you’re alive Xander.” She sat down next to him, and bumped her hip against his shoulder. “Deal with your aliveness, rather than your horrifically painful death.”

“But Willow... Buffy...”

“Buffy will deal too,” she said. “You know she will. Yeah, she’ll be wigged, and probably really pissed, but when she gets through that, she’ll just be grateful that you didn’t die, that you’re all better now. You are all better now, aren’t you?” she said, suddenly worried.

“Don’t worry, Wills, I’m all better. Better than ever, really, with the vampire strength thing going for me. I’m just...” He sighed and rolled over, burying his face in the pillow and hoping that the cloth would muffle his next words. “I’m just suddenly gay, is all.”

“What?” Willow said. “What do you mean by that?”

He rolled back over and glared at her. “I liked it! I just got fucked by a very male vampire, and I liked it. What does that say about me?”

“That you’re potentially bisexual?” she offered. He glared harder, and she sighed. “I don’t know, Xander. And neither do you. You’re just going to have to wait. This isn’t something that’s going to be worked out in a few minutes of best friend talk and a hug, okay? It’s gonna take time.”

“I know,” he sighed. “And in the meantime, I have to learn how to deal with my new strength and stuff, and figure out what I’m going to say to Buffy when she gets back.”

They sat in silence for a moment, and then he threw a plaintive look her way. “Can I get a hug anyway?”

She laughed at that, and threw her arms around him. “No matter what you decide,” she whispered in his ear, “I still love you. Remember that when you next decide to hate yourself, okay?”

“Okay,” he whispered back, and held her close.





Part Three
Slayer



“You know,” Xander said reflectively as he licked his ice cream, “except for the whole, being a semi-vamp and having sex with Angel thing, this has been a pretty boring summer.”

“That’s a pretty big ‘except,’” Willow pointed out. “How are you dealing with that, anyway?”

“I’m pretty much not,” Xander admitted. “Every time I think about Angel, I get this weird feeling in my stomach that I don’t want to think about too much, so I’m pretty much just avoiding the whole thought.”

“I can get that,” Willow said sympathetically. “Just- Buffy’s supposed to be back sometime soon. What are you going to tell her?”

“Kinda tricky, isn’t it?” he said. “What with the whole, having sex with her boyfriend, thing. Bound to put a damper on the friendship.”

“And is that how you’re feeling about Buffy?” Willow wanted to know. “Friends?”

He shrugged, looking sheepish. “I don’t know. I want to be friends with her, definitely. And when I think about kissing her I get the same old thrill. Just... Mostly I haven’t been thinking about kissing her; I’ve been shaking with terror at the thought of telling her that I had sex with her boyfriend.”

“And so what about Angel?” Willow asked. “Are you thinking about kissing him?”

“Absolutely not,” he said. “I’m repressing that, remember?”

“And so you haven’t come to a conclusion about the gay thing?”

“I don’t know,” he admitted. “I still get the whole, Buffy Kissage! thrill, but then I catch myself staring at the guy serving ice cream. It’s kinda weird, truth be told.”

“The guy serving ice cream was cute,” Willow pointed out. “So... bi, maybe?”

“Maybe,” he said with a shrug. “I’d like to repress for a while more, though, if you don’t mind.”

“Sure thing,” she said, and with a smile he slung an arm around her shoulders.

“Knew I could count on you, Wills.”

“Yeah,” she said quietly. She looked like she was about to say something else, then suddenly said, “Hello! Vampire!”

Xander whirled and then somehow managed to duck the punch that the vampire threw. “Willow, get out of here!” he cried, and threw a punch of his own, smiling at the satisfying crunch under his knuckles even as he positioned his body so that he was between Willow and the vampire.

He got in another couple punches before the fledge got him in the jaw with a well-timed kick. Xander hit the ground, and even as he shook off the ringing in his ears and jumped to his feet again, he heard footsteps rapidly approaching, and blinked as he saw Buffy grab the vampire by the shoulders and throw him straight into a jagged branch protruding from a nearby tree.

She brushed the dust away from her clothes, then turned back to her friends with a smile on her face. “Hi guys,” she said cheerfully. “Miss me?”






Xander was in a bad mood. Buffy was back- good, great even. Only, how the hell was he supposed to explain to her that he’d had sex with her boyfriend in a way that wouldn’t get him punched?

Hey Buffy, great to see you. What did you do over summer break? Well, I almost got killed, was turned into a part-vampire, and had sex with Angel.

Yeah, that’d go over well.

Not.

So what was he supposed to do? Was there any way to do this and avoid major trouble and heartache?

He wasn’t any closer to an answer when he met Willow at the Bronze that night. Buffy was supposed to show, and he was frantically playing over potential explanations when he spotted her through the crowd.

“Okay,” he said under his breath. “Okay, you can do this. Honestly, you can. She won’t kill you. She likes you. You’re her friend. She wouldn’t kill her friend, would she?”

Willow threw him a sympathetic look, and then there was Buffy, looking stunning as ever and wearing a big grin. “Hey, you two.”

“You’re looking good, Buffy,” Xander said through a tight throat. “Working on your tan, were you?”

“Yeah,” she said carelessly, and tossed her head, deliberately not looking to her right. Xander glanced over and saw Angel standing there, looking frustrated but not despairing. Had he told her yet? If he had and that was why she was all pissy, then why was she still here? Still talking to him, instead of eviscerating him?

The band started the next song, and Buffy grabbed his arm. “Let’s dance,” she said, and he wasn’t so slow that he didn’t notice the command in her voice. He went, very reluctantly, and let her lead him to the center of the dance floor.

He was shocked down to his very toes when she plastered herself against him and started to move. This was new, this was different, this was... very bad.

“Buffy,” he said, and then had to clear his throat when his voice broke. “Buffy, I need to tell you something.”

“Do you?” she said, sounding like she didn’t particularly care. “Xander, did I ever thank you for saving my life?”

“No, you didn’t. Buffy-“

“Don’t you wish I would?” she whispered into his ear, then whirled away and went stalking off into the crowd.

Okay, that... didn’t go well.

“Wills, did you see which was she went?”

Willow pointed to the door. “What’s up with her?”

“Don’t know. I’m gonna find out, though.”






“Buffy!” he called. “Buffy, wait up for a second, okay?”

She turned on her heel and stared at him. “What do you want, Xander? I’m not going to sleep with you. I’m done for the night, thanks.”

“And I can’t tell you how much of a relief that is,” he said, and watched with distant pleasure as her face went blank with shock.

“What, got over your pathetic little crush?” she demanded, recovering quickly.

“I don’t know. At the moment I’m thinking yes, since you’re being something of a bitch, but more importantly, there’s something I have to tell you.”

“Can’t it wait? Can’t you tell me tomorrow?”

“No, it can’t,” he said firmly. “Because I think you’d rather be alone to hear this, and frankly, I’m expecting to get punched, so you’d probably rather be alone for that too.”

“What do you mean?” Her voice was wary now, and sounded more like the Buffy he knew rather than the pod person who had taken over her body.

“Well, it’s like this. While you were gone during the summer, I was attacked by a demon. I killed it, but it poisoned me, and the only known cure was an exchange of blood with a vampire. So, in a word or several, Angel saved my life.”

“That’s nice of Angel,” she snapped, and there was a serious bite in her voice. “Why do I care?”

Issues much?

“I wasn’t finished,” he snapped back, then took a deep breath, trying to calm down. Losing his temper wouldn’t do any good, and could do even more harm than this conversation was already going to do.

“His blood made me into something... more than human. Not a vampire, but I have a lot of their strengths.”

“Good for you,” she said, her voice dripping sarcasm. “Again, why do I care?”

“There’s more to it,” he said carefully. “Afterwards, I was... it was sort of like I was turned. And when a new vampire rises, he goes through a serious pain. The only way to get rid of it is either to make their first kill, or to be claimed by their Sire.”

“Which would be Angel,” she said, no longer sounding quite so venomous. “So, what, he bit you again?”

“Not exactly,” he said, and then took a very deep breath, and let it out. “Claiming involves... well.... um...”

“Spit it out, Xander.”

“Sex,” he blurted out, and then closed his eyes when he saw the look on her face. Comprehension, followed by shock and then a nice chaser of hurt.

“You fucked Angel?”

“Other way around, really,” he said, and then winced. Tactful, Harris. Real tactful.

“So Angel fucked you. What, to save your life?”

“Pretty much,” he said. “The pain just gets worse and worse, till you eventually die. Or so I was made to understand, after three days of said pain.”

“And, what? You told me, just to twist the knife and gloat?”

“No,” he said, keeping the shreds of his nonexistent dignity wrapped around him like a cloak. “No, I told you because you’re my friend, and I’m not going to keep something like that from you. You deserved to know the truth, and so I gave it to you.”

“You’re not my friend,” she hissed. “No one who is my friend could have done this to me.”

He took a step towards her, one hand outstretched, and dropped it when she backed a hasty step away, dashing tears away from her eyes. “I’m still your friend, Buffy,” he said sadly. “No matter what you think, no matter what happened with Angel. I’m still your friend.”

“No,” she said. “No, you’re really not. In fact, you’re nothing to me.”

He watched sadly as she turned on her heel and stormed off, but couldn’t feel anything but a sort of dragging tiredness.

“Didn’t go well, I take it.”

He didn’t turn around at Angel’s voice. “No, that would be a bit of an understatement,” he said quietly, watching the empty alleyway where she’d been standing. “If it’s any consolation, I think she currently hates my guts rather than yours.”

“Not really,” Angel said.

“No, it isn’t really, is it?”






“So, how’d it go?” Willow asked as she sat down next to him. Xander lifted his head from the table and stared at her out of bloodshot eyes.

“How well do you think it went?”

“That would be a ‘not so great, Willow,’ then,” Willow said, and sighed. “Damn. I knew that she’d be upset, of course, but I hoped...”

“What? That she’d understand and forgive my little betrayal? Don’t think so, Wills.”

“What happened?” Giles said, as he sat down at the table as well. “You spoke to Buffy, I presume?”

“It went badly,” Willow supplied.

“It was fucked,” Xander said, more bluntly. “She’s not going to forgive any time soon.”

“Can you really blame her?”

“Me?” Xander shrugged. “Not at all. Willow was the only one who expected her to understand.”

He caught the sound of an additional heartbeat near them, and looked up to see Buffy standing there. “Uh, hi, Buffy,” Willow said. “How’s it going?”

“I need to talk to Giles,” Buffy said, and the anger in her look was reserved entirely for Xander. Well, at least she didn’t hate Willow, as well.

“Don’t worry, I’m leaving,” Xander said. “No need for the rest of you to shift yourselves.”

“You’ll be in class?” Willow asked, looking anxious.

“Willow, have I ever skipped class? No, don’t answer that. I’m going.”

He walked off and ignored the pain he felt when he felt the angry glare of a Slayer on his back the whole way out.






Willow caught up with him later in the day. “You should know that the Anointed One has gathered forces again, and they’re trying to bring the Master back,” she told him. “Buffy just left to deal with it. She seemed a little... tense.”

“Can’t imagine why,” Xander said wryly. “Guess she’s glad I’m not around, at least.”

“I think it’s more than just you,” Willow said thoughtfully. “She was acting weird before you told her, remember? Mean. Cruel, even. Bitching out Cordy, and she was obviously hacked off at Angel even before you told her, and then there was the whole dance thing.”

“You’re right,” Xander said, then shrugged. “Well, the whole thing with the Master must have her really wigged. Nothing we can do about it now. Just gotta hope that she works out her issues on the Anointed One and his minions.”

Willow agreed, and followed him into the library. “Hey, speaking of Cordy, has anyone seen her?” Xander wanted to know. “She wasn’t swanning around, mocking the less fortunate.”

“She was kidnapped as bait to get Buffy around so that they can use her blood to raise the Master,” Willow explained. Xander raised an eyebrow.

“She always did have the most fun,” he said dryly, and then waved when he saw Giles. “Hey.”

“This is not good news,” Giles said, almost to himself, as he ran his finger down the page of the book he was reading. Both teens crowded around behind him, trying to see what it was, exactly, that he was reading.

“Giles, what is it?” Willow demanded when Giles said nothing.

“Well, it’s just... it seems that I didn’t quite translate this properly. The ritual to raise the Master requires the blood of the one or ones who were closest to the Master when he died- physically closest. That means...”

“Me, you, Cordy, and Mrs. Calendar,” Willow finished. “What do you bet that they’ve already got Mrs. Calendar, too?”

“No bet,” Xander said, and pointed to the vampires that were leering down at them from within the stacks. “And it looks like they’re trying for a full quartet.”






The day was saved and everyone was safe, except for all the vampires that had been dusted. Xander put his arm around Willow’s shoulders, and watched as Buffy pounded the Master’s bones into little itty pieces.

She dropped the hammer and turned to Angel, crying. Xander watched, feeling a pang when he put his arms around her, making meaningless shushing noises into her hair. Well, at least Angel wasn’t going to pay for his mistakes.

“She’ll get over it eventually,” Willow said, guessing accurately at his thoughts. He lifted one shoulder in a halfhearted shrug.

“Will she? I’m not sure I would, in her position. It’s the ultimate betrayal of friendship. Would you get over it, if it were you?”

“I’m not sure,” she admitted. “I think I would. But I can’t really know, can I?”

Xander leaned his chin on the railing and listened with half an ear to the sound of Buffy crying. “No,” he said softly. “I don’t think anyone can.”





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