Remembering how close the three of them had been just made him angry all over again that Willow would once more choose Buffy over Xander and Jesse. He knew she didn’t mean it like that but going to Parent-Teacher night without Jesse felt like a betrayal of their friendship.
Sighing, Xander flipped ahead in the book, seeing there were only a couple of chapters to go. He’d been sitting in this little diner since just before sunset, not wanting to go home or anywhere near the school. It wasn’t much of a place but it was nearly empty so they didn’t mind him sitting here and it was about as far from the school as you could get in Sunnydale. He really wasn’t up to another fight with Willow.
The book was suddenly tweaked out of his hands.
“Hey!” he began and looked up to see a young man settling down on the opposite side of the booth and beginning to flip through the book. The protest died in his throat as he took in the slicked back white hair and black leather duster. He froze. It was the vampire from outside the factory, it had to be.
Scrambling quickly to his feet, Xander pulled his replacement cross out of his pocket; he’d been too shaken to remember to pick the old one up outside the factory and too nervous to go back for it. Turned out you could buy large crosses in a bunch of different stores in town.
The voice clinched it. “Drovinius’ Vampyre Chronicles, eh? Why’re you reading this twaddle?” He didn’t even look up at Xander, who stood there, clutching his cross, and poised on the brink of flight but reluctant to abandon the book if he didn’t have to. He could just imagine the librarian’s reaction to Xander telling him the book had been stolen by a vampire.
“Why do you say it’s twaddle?” Still nervous, Xander lowered the cross slightly but didn’t put it away. It seemed rude somehow to wave it at the vampire if he wasn’t actively trying to hurt Xander but relaxing his guard would violate his recent decision that he wasn’t suicidal.
“Doubt Drovinius would have known a vampire even if one was draining him. Second and third hand sources, that’s all he used.” The vampire still didn’t look at Xander, keeping his focus on the book.
“You read books on vampires?”
“Had to do something to pass the time before they invented the telly now, didn’t I?” The vampire slapped the book closed and shoved it back to him. Xander hurriedly snatched it up before it tipped his glass over and tucked it safely into his backpack. He was pretty sure coke stains would bring his borrowing privileges to a screeching halt. The vampire seemed completely at ease, stretching out sideways in the booth and pulling out a cigarette.
“Umm, I don’t think they allow smoking in here,” Xander offered tentatively.
That got him a flickering look as the vampire lit up. “What are you - The American Cancer Society?”
“No, it’s just…” Not really wanting to explain that he was afraid the vampire would kill the first employee who insisted he stop smoking, Xander gestured lamely towards the No Smoking sign.
“Don’t really care about their soddin’ rules.” He pointed with his cigarette towards the other side of the booth. “Sit down or clear off, mate.”
“It’s my table,” Xander started to object but realized he really wasn’t prepared to follow through on anything. Not sure why, he found himself sliding back into his side of the booth, still keeping one hand on his backpack and the other on his cross. There was a pause while Xander watched the vampire nervously and the vampire seemed content to just sit there smoking and studying the far wall. No employees came running over to tell him to put his cigarette out, so either the staff was really lax or the aura of danger Xander sensed radiating off the vampire wasn’t his imagination. And wasn’t that a comforting thought.