Part 3

 

 

“So why don’t you start at the beginning?”

Xander looked at Angel out of the corner of his eye, ostensibly watching the front door—that was very important, for both of them.  Cordelia had stressed that, over and over.  If everyone else was going to clear out and let them talk privately, then by god, they were going to make sure no potential clients were ignored.

It made him wonder just who, exactly, was in charge of Angel investigations.  He was betting on Cordelia, for everything but the actual fights.

“Well, once upon a time, there was this old guy who worked at a library and he saw this pretty little blonde girl and thought she would be just perfect for this huge, leather-bound book and—”

“Xander!”

He grinned, feeling fifteen again.  They’d been cordially civil so far, and it was starting to grate on Xander’s nerves.  He knew they were different—this much more open and colorful man in front of him was not the same Angel he’d known and hated in high school, and he wasn’t anything like the little prick who’d been so jealous during high school.  But them being friendly?  Without the big blow-out scene first?  Something was way wrong there.

“What, you still don’t like my jokes?”  He laughed at himself, leaning back in the chair so that it rested precariously on one leg.  He liked the lobby.  All dark wood and bright colors.  It was very yellow for the abode of a vampire—nice.

“You and Spike, Xander, I want to know about—does that get any easier to say?”  The faintly distasteful expression did him in.  Whooping, Xander fell backwards onto the floor.  Angel watched in bemusement as Xander struggled to regain composure so he could get up again.  It took a while.  “I’m serious.  You know I almost went up to Sunnydale, the first time Giles told me?  I’m still not sure why I was going to go there—to yell at Spike for using you, or to yell at you for using Spike.”

That made him calm slightly, although he was still grinning as he got himself positioned again.  “Yeah, Willow told me.  She also told me that if you did ever show your face to do those things, she was gonna actually perform that spell she kept threatening you with.  Wanna let me know what it is?”

The faint distaste became outright fear, which made Xander laugh again—although not so acrobatically.  “Um, lets just say that she’s become very powerful.”

“Oh, yeah, Wills is regular hell on wheels when it comes to the magic, now.  So don’t be making her mad, Mister!”

Neanderthal brow moving up and down in complete agreement.  Xander tried hard not to laugh for a third time—he’d forgotten how easy Angel was to rile up, even after the significant changes the vampire had gone through.  And they were significant; Angel was much more human now, no doubt bullied that way by the still-overbearing but completely-lovable Cordelia.  Who had shrieked and hugged him like a long lost brother when she’d seen him.

Living here was certainly going to be interesting, that was for sure.

“The beginning?” Angel prompted again.

“Right.  That would be about a year and a half ago, right after the whole mess with Adam.  Spike had managed to worm his way back into our won’t-stake-you-on-sight graces, but he suddenly started showing up, all the time.  None of us thought about it too much, we were too busy ignoring, insulting, or using him.”  Xander kept his voice frank and level.  He wasn’t proud of this particular part of his life, although Spike had repeatedly told him that, as an evil vampire, he’d deserved all of it and more. 

“He’d help Buffy patrol, did a lot to help Giles when he was just taking over the Magic Box, started ‘remembering’ languages and spells to help out Wills and Tara.  He also got real chummy with Anya—” which Xander had not been thrilled about— “and started being an active caretaker for Dawn.”

“For Dawn?  Buffy’s sister, Dawn?  The girl who hated me on sight and Buffy wouldn’t let me near?”

“Yeah, that Dawn.”  He was just grateful that he didn’t have to explain too much to the older vampire—Glory and the Key were still very touchy subjects.  “She’d always liked him, thought he was, and I quote, ‘way cool’, and when Buffy needed babysitters she would always ask for him.” 

Xander asked her once why she wanted Spike to sit with her, instead of himself and Anya.  She’d told him that Spike didn’t treat her like a little girl, but he wasn’t going to let anything bad happen to her, either.  He’d tell her to her face that she was being an idiot and go hide, or he’d rip her skin off himself.

Why she enjoyed threats so much he’d never understand.

“Okay, so Spike was working his way into the inner circle.”  Angel looked a bit nonplused at that—he’d never really been accepted by anyone but Buffy, even before the whole soul, curse, insane vampire bit.  “And you weren’t suspicious about this?”

“Of course we were.  But Spike isn’t big on patience and this went on for months.  So when nothing happened. . . we just kinda let it go.  Time passed, yadda yadda.  Dawn got into trouble, Buffy and Riley started having fights, and me and Anya broke up.  No big fight, we just both moved on.  Pretty cool, given our track records.  More time went by, Gl—Glory got scarier and more threatening, Spike thought he was in love with Buffy, and I—I got hurt.”

“Which had nothing to do with Anya telling you she and Giles might be getting together?”

“Actually, no.”  Xander forced himself to grin disarmingly, meeting Angel’s suddenly too-perceptive gaze.  When the hell did Mr. Clueless get a clue?  Or even several?  Maybe Cordy was a bad influence after all.  “No, I firmly maintain that it was coincidence.  I mean, it’d been almost two months since we split, and we were good friends.  But it did happen within a few weeks of each other, and I. . . wasn’t dealing too well.”

An understanding nod, which sparred Xander from the still-uncomfortable explanations that no, he wasn’t upset, and no, he wasn’t jealous.  Well, not really.  Because he sort of was, but it was. . .

“Generic?”

His head whipped up to stare at Angel in shock.  “What—how did you—”

Angel smiled a tiny, sheepish smile—something Xander couldn’t remember ever happening during high school—and tilted his head.  “I feel it, every time I see a couple in love.  It doesn’t have anything to do with their happiness with each other, it’s that you don’t have it.  And in my case, can’t.”

“Yeah.  That’s it, exactly.”  Xander tried not to blink or look shocked—compassion from Angel was weird.    “I mean, I was happy that they were happy.  I just wanted to be that happy, too.  So, yeah.  I was pretty depressed, I’ll admit, but please don’t tell them.  Willow just gets all guilty.  I guess I was careless at work, I don’t really remember a whole lot.  One minute I’m trying to get up the scaffolding, the next I’m in the hospital bed with everyone around me.”

Wills and Dawn had been crying, openly sobbing with relief when he opened his eyes.  Buffy had that frustrated look of wanting to slay what had hurt her friend, and being unable to.  Giles had been the most amusing—he was funny when he was frazzled like that, stretched between his ‘children’ and trying to do the best for all of them.  Anya and Tara just supported their mates, but they’d been very sweet to him, grateful that he was okay.  That was when he and Ahn had really made up.

“I was okay—busted leg, some cracked ribs and a bad concussions—and it was going to take a lot of rehab for me to be able to move right again.  No permanent damage, though, and everything healed up fine.  The problem was I needed someone to take of me, pretty much constantly.  I couldn’t do anything for myself, not even go to the bathroom.  I was getting decent compensation from work, but I couldn’t afford a live-in nurse, and I couldn’t ask any my friends—they all had lives and duties of their own.”

That’s when he’d hit rock bottom, depression-wise.  He was injured, and he hated being injured, totally dependent on someone else to care of his needs, and he didn’t really have that anyone else to care for him.  Even if he’d still been dating Anya, she couldn’t have handled being nursemaid, and he told her that when she offered.  She’d tried not to look too grateful.

“I was in the hospital for a week, and I was dreading coming home.  The apartment was a mess, and it was going to be hell just getting me from the door to the bedroom.  I was not going to ask Buffy for help, she needed to be with her mother, which meant no super-strength to solve the problem.”

He’d been racking his brains for what to do—pretty difficult given the headache he’d had.  Giles offered to drive him home, which Xander had agreed to, but after that point he come up totally blank.  No one beside Anya had realized just how much help he was going to need; they kept hearing ‘full recovery’ from the doctor and didn’t pay attention to much else.  Which was not their fault, and Xander hadn’t blamed them then or now.

“So it’s this really cloudy day.  The sky was almost black, and it felt like it was going to pour any minute.  Suited my mood, perfectly.  Giles got me into the car, and then into my building.  Thank god the elevator was working, cause I was stuck in a wheelchair.  He gets me to my door and he starts looking really nervous, and I can tell he really just wants to open my door and leave.  So I tell him it’s okay.  He can do that, I’ll manage fine.”

The look on Angel’s face was priceless—and made Xander suddenly feel a lot better about the next few weeks.  He looked totally outraged, like he was going to have a few choice words the next time he spoke with Giles or any of the other Scoobies.  “He just left you?”

“Buffy’s mom was just getting out of surgery.  Buffy was a wreck and she really did need someone to take care of her.  Riley wasn’t cutting it, Spike couldn’t be there during the day, and the only person she had left was Giles.  So, yeah, he left.  I kinda insulted him until he did.  And don’t yell at him—he feels guilty enough.”

Giles had opened the door, gave Xander a push inside, and then shut it behind him.  Xander remembered staring at the floor for a very long time, trying to decide what he was going to do first.  Then he looked up.

“It was clean.  Like, spotless clean, the way it hadn’t been even when Anya lived with me.  Everything was put away, dusted and vacuumed.  I could smell something cooking in the kitchen.  For a minute, I thought I was in the wrong place.”  Then preternaturally strong arms had gathered him up, so carefully that it didn’t hurt his bruised and broken body, and carried him over to the sofa, which had been carefully arranged to hold someone who wasn’t going to be moving from it all that often.

“I wanted to yell, you know?  I wanted to know what the hell he thought he was doing.  Especially when he started working the hospital gown off of me.” He’d tried, too, but he’d been ignored.  Stark naked, except for the bandages carefully covered with plastic so they wouldn’t get wet, he was then carried—still yelling his head off and threatening to get Buffy—over to his bathroom, where a hot bath was waiting for him.

“I don’t know if you know what hospitals are like, but after an hour you want to go home and be clean again.  After a solid week, I thought I had things growing on me.  So I just shut up.  It wasn’t hurting, in fact it felt really good.  So I just. . . let it happen.”

He’d been so gentle.  Xander couldn’t remember when he’d been touched so softly before.  Once all the sweat and grim and dust from the site had been washed off, Spike had slid in behind him so that his neck and shoulders could be rubbed, easing the tension of being forced into an unfamiliar position while his body healed.  By the time the water was cooling and he was lifted out, he was nothing more than a large puddle of Xandergoo, content to let the day just play out.

He was dressed in his loose, comfortable flannels, fed decent-tasting soup, although he really wasn’t hungry, took his pills on time, and spent the afternoon dozing in front of the television while his new nursemaid cleaned up the damage the bath and the soup had caused.  When he’d woken up in the middle of the night, somehow in his bed, it had been all of two seconds before Spike was there to soothe the tears and croon him back to sleep.

“It went like that for the next few weeks.  The only time he was gone was when Buffy really needed a hand or Willow was coming over.  She was not comfortable with Spike, the undead English Patient, so he’d go out for blood or a fight or something.  I always tried to get him to go out at least every couple of days, but usually if I was awake, he was there with me.  Then rehab started.”

That had not been fun.  Angel gave another of those weird, understanding nods—but this was different, because he was sure one of his friends had bitched about his behavior at least once.   “Four weeks it took to get me back up to barely half-strength, and by then none of my friends would talk to me—except Spike.  He never left, the whole time.  Not when I was screaming at him, calling him all kinds of names, not when I was threatening to kill him, or me, or sobbing like a baby.  He never left.”

Somehow, during those hellish weeks, Xander had come to depend on the cool body that slept beside him every night.  Oh, Spike had started out in the spare bedroom, but then he’d moved to the floor when he realized that Xander didn’t sleep well at night, and finally to Xander’s bed when he’d gotten fed up with the snarky comments about the puppy that slept by the door.  More times that Xander could count, he’d woken up sobbing, already pressed to a welcoming shoulder and comforting words being whispered into his hair.

“Do all vampires purr?”

“Um. . . well, we all can,” Angel hedged, looking sheepish and a bit silly.  “Why?”

“Spike purrs.  A lot.  Sometimes it was the only way I could fall asleep.”  It was a measure of his desperation and growing trust that he mentioned it at all—only Dawn knew Spike purred, and for many of the same reasons as Xander.

“Really.  That’s.. . . interesting.”

“Thought it might be.  You wanna talk about it now, or hear the rest of the story.  It’s still pretty long.”

“All of it, please.  Then I think we’ll a need a break before I start talking.”

“Sure.”  Xander began doodling on the pad in front of him.  This part was harder.  Much harder.  “By the time I was healthy, Spike was a part of my life.  Willow had stopped threatening him whenever she came over, and actually approved of the way he took care of me.  Dawn used to come over a lot to be with her ‘big brothers’, and Buffy was just happy that if Spike was at my place, Dawn wasn’t at the cemetery.  She still threatened to stake him a lot, though.  Giles had lectured him within an inch of his unlife, but by then we were pretty sure there was no agenda.  He just wanted to help.

“And then it went to hell.”

The Watcher’s came, the Scoobies found out just what was at stake—which Angel was not going to find out from Xander—Buffy’s mom died, and the Knights forced their hand.  Xander had been completely healthy and mobile by that time, so other than his car sickness, he’d been an active part of the abortive flight and then attack on the tower—especially since Spike’s method of re-teaching him how to walk had included enough martial arts that he wasn’t totally helpless anymore.

But Buffy still died.

“I think. . . I think that’s maybe when it started.  I don’t know.  I don’t remember a. . . whole lot, from then.  I remember Dawn wouldn’t eat, and only Spike could make her.”  By threatening to tie her up and force-feed her, giving her incredibly detailed descriptions of rope burns and choking before she learned how to breathe and swallow at the same time.  She’d stopped arguing after that. 

“Willow couldn’t stop crying, and it was Spike who finally slapped her, despite the chip, and told Tara to take her away for a while and get themselves together.  Giles wanted to go back to England, and Anya thought maybe she’d go with him.  Spike made them stay.  Told Giles that he was running away, if he thought his job was done, and he had more children than just Buffy and they needed him too.” 

He forced himself to grin a little.  “He slept with Dawn, every night.  For two weeks, he was by her side constantly.  Wouldn’t let her be alone for even an instant.  Willow screamed at him, telling him that he was a pervert if he thought he’d just move in on Buffy’s sister since Buffy was. . . gone.  He got—so mad.  I don’t think I ever seen him so mad.  To think that he would—”

Xander got up, unable to sit there and just remember what it had been like.  Pacing, he tried to get rid of the images and sounds that crowded his mind.

The hate on Willow’s face because it was Spike Dawn always wanted, not Buffy’s best friend, and the pure rage when Spike called her on it.  When she turned on Xander, demanding that he get up and referee when all he could was sit there and try and imagine his life without the strongest person he knew.  Without the part of his life that was sunshine and laughter.

Spike had laughed, then, calling her a selfish little bitch, and if she tried to manipulate Dawn like that, he’d take her away.  Didn’t matter where, but he’d take her away and nothing, not even magic, would be able to find them.  It was the deadly seriousness in his voice that finally got through to them, making them really hear what Spike was saying. 

Giles told Spike he wouldn’t dare.  Spike said that if he thought that was best for Dawn, he’d damned well do it.

“Buffy told me to protect her ’till the end of the world.  World’s still turning, innit?  So it’s still my job to protect her.  That means from psychotically grieving friends just as much as the nasties.  Dawn is mine, now.  Buffy gave her to me, to protect from everyone—even you.”

And Dawn was clinging to him, totally trusting of the evil, dead thing her sister had given her to, and they had—woken up.  “How much did Willow tell you? About Glory?”

“I know that it was somehow tied up in Dawn’s life.  That if she died. . . it would stop.  That’s why Buffy—jumped.  The blood.”

“Yeah.  Giles, I know he didn’t mean—none of us did, but we were desperate and it was Buffy—but he kinda thought, if Dawn weren’t there. . .  That’s why she went to Spike.  Well, one reason.  Because he would never hurt Dawn, no matter what.  Buffy once said the last thing Dawn would see was her sister fighting to save her life.  With Spike—he would have been ash before he let something hurt Dawn.

“That did it for us.  We started living again.  The girls took summer classes to have something to do.  The rest of us threw ourselves into our work, and Spike. . . Spike took care of us all.  He cooked our meals, he cleaned our apartments, he bullied us into training and researching again, helped Dawn with her homework, forced us to take breaks when we needed that—everything.”

“And you?  How did you deal, Xander?”

“What?”  He stopped pacing, glancing back at Angel in time to catch the brief look of relief.  Then the concern came back.

“What about you?  You’ve talked about how everyone else broke down, except you and Spike.  So how did you deal?  And what happened when Spike broke down?”

“Why would you think Spike would break down?”  Misdirection, misdirection was key.

The skeptical expression told Xander that he hadn’t fooled the vampire.  “Spike broke down, because that’s the way Spike is.  I know him, even if he doesn’t believe it anymore.”  Then, more quietly, “He loved her.  It wasn’t a good love, or a practical love, but he loved her.”

“Buffy used to say that vamps can’t love.  That you could only because of the soul.”

A tiny grin and then Angel was copying Xander’s acrobatics with the chair, looking calm and relaxed.  “Spike’s never been a conventional vampire.  None of my childer ever were.  He could love.  Angelus beat him for it, but in the end, that’s why Dru always came back to him.  Because he did love.  Strongly.  So what happened?”

“I pretended.  I lived my life like everything was fine.  Even managed to convince Willow, so it must have been pretty good.  But I didn’t care anymore.  Spike saved my life dozens of times on patrol, I only ate when Spike put food in front of me, and how I didn’t kill myself at work I’ll never know.”

“And Spike?”

Xander hugged himself, remembering the sick feeling when he’d finally realized.  “Spike stopped eating.  Any spare bit of cash he found went to Dawn—we were all funneling money for her.  No money, meant no blood; he’d buy expensive chocolates or pretty earrings, instead.  I saw it first.”

Dawn had wanted a girls’ night, so he and Spike had gone to the Bronze and pretended they were ‘hunting birds’.  They’d gotten drunk, somehow ending up at Xander’s place and slept tangled together the way the hadn’t for nearly a month.  Xander had woken up first, only mildly hung over, and fascinated by the shirtless-Spike in his bed.  The shirtless, prominent ribs-and collarbones-Spike.

“He’d taken care of all of us, you know?  Me for a lot longer, but ever since Buffy was gone, he’d taken care of all of us.  And no one was taking care of him.  So. . . I did.  I bought him blood and forced him to drink it.  He didn’t want to, said Dawn needed the money more.” 

Except it was already paid for—Xander had arranged for a supply to be delivered regularly—and if he didn’t want a repetition of what Spike had gone through with Dawn he’d damn well drink the nasty blood Xander had bought and heated for him.  Looking amazed and a little frightened, Spike had complied.

“He kinda became my focus, I guess.  I knew how to take care of Spike, I’d been living with him for months.  I had a talk with Dawn and she helped me get him to move back to my place, where at least he was away from Willow and Tara—way too much estrogen in that house.  It’s why Giles didn’t move in when the Wiccas did.”

“So when did you two become. . .”

“Lovers?  Not that long afterwards.”

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

Xander had been tired.  Tired of being alone, of working his ass off, of being surrounded by way too many women, of just about everything.  He wanted to watch some porn, drink some beer, and get off—all those good, American male things.  So he’d told Spike he wanted a guy’s night.  Rented a few flicks, had Spike pick up some decent imported beer, and they’d sat down to, as Spike put it, have a wank together.

Xander had long ago stopped being body-shy around Spike—it happened when you took baths together.  Totally platonic at the time, but Spike had refused to get his clothes soaked for Xander’s modesty.  So when they’d sat down on the couch, pants open and pushed slightly down, Xander had been able to concentrate totally on the movie in front of him.

He’d been nicely into it; watching silicone-breasts bounce temptingly, enjoying the firm, measured rhythm as he stroked himself.  Just beginning to pant, he glanced over at Spike just to see if his. . . friend? companion?. . . was enjoying it too.

Spike was staring at him.  Watching his hand move up and down, licking his lips like he wanted to take over.  He was rubbing himself, but it could have been the Three Stooges on the tv for all Spike cared.  He was getting off on Xander.

And Xander got harder, because of it.

Spike’s nostrils flared as Xander moaned, the addition rush of heat totally removing any interest in the movie.  “Xan?” Spike’s voice was very soft, almost hesitant.  “Xan, can I ask you something?”

“Um. . . okay.  Sure.  What?”

“Would you—I need—” he licked his lips, keeping his eyes focused on Xander’s still-moving hand.  “Could you fuck me?  Please, I—please?”

Just like that.  He’d never heard Spike sound like that, not in nearly four years of knowing the snarky vampire.  So young, and desperate and alone—as alone as Xander felt.

And suddenly Xander found himself kissing those sweet, pouty lips, rubbing his body against one that felt so different from the bodies he’d rubbed against before.  God, it felt—he kept his touch light, expecting Spike to take charge, to show him what to do.  He knew Spike was no stranger to gay sex, and that he was.  But it never happened.  Spike just let Xander kiss him, tongues tangling together and teeth clacking when Xander pressed in harder.  Hands ran up and down his sides and back, but they never went under the shirt.  Like he was waiting for Xander.

Frustrated, Xander yanked at Spike’s shirt, suddenly consumed with the thought of tasting that cool, silky skin.  He immediately latched onto tiny, pink nipples, trying to figure out the differences between these and the female ones he was used to.  Tonguing them with the flat of his tongue got the loudest moans, Spike’s hips thrusting up into his thigh so that Xander could feel just how female Spike wasn’t.

So hard Xander thought he was going to burst, he ripped Spike’s pants the rest of the way off, shimmying frantically to get rid of his own.  Pushed his own hips forward so that his erection slid against Spike’s.  They moaned into each other’s mouths.  For a while they just thrust and rubbed like that, before Xander realized something very important.

“Shit, lube!  Spike, we don’t have lube!”

“M’a vampire,” Spike mumbled as he sucked on Xander’s earlobe.  “Don’t need lube.”

That made Xander pull away.  “I am not taking you dry, Spike.  I don’t care how much you might get off on it.  I wouldn’t.”  In fact, his erection was starting to soften at the thought of it.

Ice blue eyes turned the deepest sky blue Xander had ever seen, widening with some emotion he couldn’t name.  Whatever it was. . . it looked like he’d just offered Spike a way to get the chip out.  “Got lube,” Spike mumbled, pushing at Xander so that he was sitting upright on the couch again, Spike draped across it with his head in Xander’s lap.

And Xander’s dick in Spike’s mouth.

“Oh, my god!”  Anya hadn’t ever felt like this, not ever!  Sucking him so hard that he thought his dick might get ripped off, Spike still did a decent job of thickly coating his dick with saliva and precum.

“See?” Spike said with a ghost of a smile.  “Lube.”

“Not—not enough.”  He was panting and gasping and seconds away from cumming, but there was still no way in hell he was going to hurt Spike like that.  And virgin boy he may be, but he knew enough about gay sex to know that it hurt without any preparation.

But Spike was making urgent, pleading noises, breathy moans and chants of please and now and fuck me and please.

He needed to find lube for Spike and fast, or he was going to cum from the sound of the vampire begging.

There—lotion.  Innocently sitting on the table, left over from Anya’s occasional visits.  He grabbed it, coated his fingers and nervously placed his forefinger at the tiny, tight entrance to Spike’s body.  “Tell me if I hurt you,” he whispered, easing it passed the tight ring of muscles.

The deep, guttural moans didn’t sound like pain.  He worked it the way the porn mags he’d never read said to, carefully adding two more fingers when he could, scissoring them to open Spike fully.  Spike was humping the couch, moaning continuously around the Xander-bits still in his mouth.

“Ready?” he panted.  “Spike, tell me you’re ready?  I don’t want to hurt you.”  It was amazing how coherent he was—with Anya he’d just been a moaning lump while she decided what they were going to do that time.  “Spike, you have to tell me.”

Spike’s mouth made a wet, popping sound as he lifted up.  “Ready, please.”

“On the floor.”  Spike slid off the couch, resting his head on his forearms with his ass thrust up into the air.  It was totally unromantic and without the foreplay Xander was accustomed to, but damn if Spike didn’t look absolutely delicious like that.

He carefully lined himself up and pressed forward.  “Oh, gods, Xan harder!  Y’won’t break me.  Please, harder.”

Xander shook his head, sweat flying off his face, refusing to go any faster until he was fully seated deep within Spike’s ass.  And oh, did that feel good.  So much tighter, and when Spike squeezed. . .

“You okay?”

The hitching sound of a sob traveled through their joined bodies.  “Please, Xander, stop teasin’ an’ just fuck me!”

How was he supposed to refuse a request like that?

Back, and forth, in and out he moved, Spike meeting every thrust with a squeeze that threatened to do him in.  Moaning and grunting and Spike whispering about how good he felt, how hot and big and full inside him.  How perfect he was, how wonderful, how—

“Spike!”  “Xander!”

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

“And after that?” 

Xander wondered if it was bad to make a normally pale vampire go white-faced.  And he’d given Angel the edited version, too.  “After that?  I flipped out, Spike left.  I went after him, told him that me having a gender crisis didn’t have anything to do with him, and would he please come home.  When that didn’t work, I told Dawn—so not a fun conversation—and she told him to go home before she knocked him out and dragged him there.”

“Everyone else?”

“Dealt.  Some more happily than others, but Dawn and Anya were pretty firmly on our side, and Tara couldn’t see the bad, so we won Willow and Giles over.  And when Buffy came back. . . ” Xander shuddered, purposefully blocking out the memories.  His nightmares were reserved for those few weeks, and he’d never consciously think about it otherwise. “Buffy didn’t like it, but since the rest of us accepted it, she learned to.  That was seven months ago, now, so no big problems anymore.”

“You’ve been together that long?”

“Nine months two weeks from now.” 

Angel nodded, looking thoughtful.  “Alright.  That’s. . . quite a lot to go on, so how about you check up on Spike, and I’ll do some research.  Besides, if I don’t let Cordelia back in here soon, she’s going to burst.”  He raised his voice slightly, “If she’s not already eavesdropping!”

When silence met his words, they shared a grin.  Xander could get to like this new, more human Angel.  He was definitely better than the must-brood-about-Buffy Angel.  But liking Angel was just a perk.  If he–any version, even Angelus—could help with Spike, than Xander was willing to put up with a great deal.

He wanted his lover back.

Part 4

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