orchidluv (orchidluv) wrote in bloodclaim,
orchidluv
orchidluv
bloodclaim

Nothing the Same, Ch. 18

Title: Nothing the Same
Author:  orchidluv
Chapter: 18/?
Pairing: Spike/Xander
Rating: This Chapter R, for violence 
Feedback: yes, please
Concrit: any and all
Disclaimer: don't own them, never will, just playing with them
Spoilers: Anything from Season 1 on. 
Summary: AU from The Harvest. Xander doesn't deal well with Jesse's death and everything changes from there.
Notes: Based on the plotbunny posted awhile back by
[info]wickedchocolate. I took the first part of the bunny only: Xander never got over Jesse’s death. After he dusted Jesse, he was never the same. Xander isolated himself from Willow and wanted nothing to do with Buffy.
Previous parts
here

Chapter 18

Xander stopped as soon as the factory came into view and hesitated as he considered how to get Spike’s attention. He could just wait outside like he had before but it wasn’t even noon yet. It was one thing to stand outside like an idiot, knowing sunset wasn’t far off but he wasn’t going to stand out here all day. He knew there were sewer tunnels that allowed the vampires to get around during the day but he didn’t know where they led or how to arrange to meet Spike in them, much less how to actually find Spike once he was inside the tunnels. Plus, gross, he really didn’t want to go touring through Sunnydale’s sewers looking for Spike.

Spike had told him that he’d warned the vampires living in the factory that Xander wasn’t to be touched but he’d also said pointedly that Xander shouldn’t trust minions to be either smart enough to remember the order or to have enough self-control to obey it, so that made Xander uneasy about simply walking up to the door and knocking. The door was situated under enough of an overhang that someone inside could reach out and drag a human inside without getting burned by the sun.

Finally, he gathered a handful of gravel from the edge of the road and walked the rest of the way to the building. Standing back about 20 feet so that he could be clearly seen from the upper windows, he starting pitching the gravel pieces one at a time at the windows above the door, feeling ridiculously like someone trying to catch their girlfriend’s attention without waking her father. He grinned as he threw another pebble, listening to it rattle against the glass and hoping it sounded as loud inside as it did outside. He made a mental note to himself to tease Spike about this one day. After all, it was Spike in the girlfriend role, not him.

He’d used up his gravel pieces and was well through a second handful before he got a response. The door opened inwards and Xander moved closer, careful to stay fully in the sun and out of grabbing reach of the interior.

“Spike?” he said questioningly.

Spike’s voice answered quietly from behind the shelter of the door: “Come in, ya daft bugger.”

Xander relaxed and entered the dim interior. Spike closed the door as soon as he was through it and Xander turned blind, unadjusted eyes towards the familiar smell of cigarettes, whiskey, and leather.

“Why’re you here?” Spike asked, still speaking far more quietly than normal.

“Something’s happened and I really thought you should know about it. I didn’t think it could wait until tonight.” Xander took a deep breath. “Angel doesn’t have a soul anymore. I realize it sounds incredibly lame but apparently his soul’s gone. I think that’s why he said those things about you.”

“I’m hurt.” Angel’s mocking voice announced from behind him, echoing loudly in the empty room.

Xander spun around in shock and squinted through the dim light in the direction of the voice. He could just make out the faint outline of the vampire as he sauntered into the main room from the back. Too shocked to move, he barely took in the rest of what Angel was saying.

“And here I was simply trying to warn you about vampires - how they’ll do things behind your back that you just don’t expect. Like inviting returning family to live with them.” He smiled genially but Xander felt a cold shiver at the inhuman cruelty he sensed lurking behind the silky voice and warm smile. It might be just his imagination, because admittedly he didn’t like Angel in any incarnation, but he didn’t think so. The menace radiating off the vampire felt very real.

Xander’s disbelieving stare turned back to Spike. “What the hell is he doing here?” he asked furiously.

“It's complicated.” Spike answered in his normal tones and Xander’s anger grew as he realized that Spike had been talking quietly hoping Angel wouldn’t hear them. He obviously hadn’t wanted Xander to know Angel was at the factory.

“I’ll bet it is. The last time I saw you, you were pacing up and down and swearing about him. And now suddenly you're roommates? What's that about?” Underneath his anger, Xander’s bewildered hurt was palpable.

“Pet…”

“Come on, Spike, boy deserves the truth,” Angelus put in with a smirk.

“Shut your yap,” Spike snarled at him.

If possible, Xander’s heart sank even further. It sounded like Spike had been keeping something from him after all. Well, he wasn’t going to stick around for the two vampires to make fun of. “Guess I didn’t really need to warn you about Angel after all,” he said bitterly. “You two do whatever you want. I’m gone.”

Spike’s hand shot out to stop him as he turned towards the door. “No!”

“Let him go,” Angel advised with malicious enjoyment. “The boy doesn't understand how it is with vampires. Sad, isn’t it, but that’s what you get for getting involved with humans.”

Xander jerked his arm free, taking advantage of Spike’s momentary distraction as the younger vampire threw a punch at Angel with his free hand. He followed through immediately, just like Spike had taught him, shoving Spike back and leaping for the door. In one quick move, he jerked the door open, causing both vampires to step back instinctively from the threat of the sun’s rays, giving Xander the second he needed to dive through the opening and out into the sunlight before either vampire could make a move to stop him.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

The sound of the door slamming echoed through the old building and Spike growled in frustration at the sunlight that kept him from following Xander. Fists clenched, he glared at Angelus, his temper rising uncontrollably as the sound of running footsteps outside gradually faded into the distance.

“Oh, he’s fun. I see why you like him.” Angel grinned salaciously at Spike.

“Don’t even think about it, Angelus. He’s mine.”

“Spike, my boy, he’s already slipping through your fingers.” Mocking laughter rippled through Angelus’ tones. “I didn’t see any claiming marks. Makes the boy up for grabs in my book.” Angel shook his head in mock sympathy. “You really haven’t learned anything, have you? You just can’t seem to hold on to the things you want. I mean, you couldn’t even keep Dru from straying.”

Spike swung at him with a furious snarl. Angelus laughed, parrying the blow and throwing one of his own that landed hard, staggering Spike back. “Is that the best you’ve got?” he taunted.

His thread-thin hold on his temper snapped and Spike launched himself at his Sire. He threw a rapid serious of blows but his out-of-control rage affected his fighting skills. Angelus, far more in control, was able to block the majority of the blows and struck several of his own. “Come on, boy, I thought you said you could take me.”

Spike spun away from the fight just long enough to grab a metal bar left lying near the wall. Snatching it up, he turned back to Angelus who was still laughing. His Sire was careless in his overconfidence and that mistake was going to cost him dearly. Spike swung the bar in a low, vicious arc, smashing it into Angelus’ ribs.

Angelus was sent crashing into the wall and slid down it to the floor. He was only down for a second but it was more than enough time. Spike pounced on him, raising the pipe and bringing it down savagely on his Sire’s back three more times. “Xander. Dru.

Me,” he hissed with each strike of the metal on flesh.

Before Angelus could move, Spike struck again. He kicked Angelus hard, using the momentum from the kick to flip the other vampire onto his back. Holding the bar like a lance, Spike drove it into his Sire’s stomach with all his strength. Angelus screamed as the bar slammed into him, tearing his flesh open and destroying the tissue inside. Spike leaned his full weight on the bar, continuing to push it through until it erupted from Angelus’ back, hitting the concrete with a clang and pinning Angelus to the floor. Keeping his weight on the bar, Spike twisted it viciously, thoroughly enjoying Angelus’ renewed screams.

“Now,” Spike’s rage was under control again; ice cold fury had replaced the burning anger. “You are going to behave yourself or I will kill you.” he said, each word dropping slowly and distinctly from his lips. “You will leave Xander alone or you will beg to be staked.” He shifted the metal bar sideways for emphasis, smiling coldly at Angelus’ pain.

He waited a moment longer, watching Angelus carefully, then jerked the bar free in one swift pull. Staring down at his Sire, he watched unemotionally as Angelus rolled painfully to his feet, one hand pressed hard to his stomach to stem the flow of the blood pouring from the hole in his guts. Spike watched the agony Angelus couldn’t hide with satisfaction

Leaning heavily against the wall, Angelus managed to glare at him. Spike hefted the bar again and waited, eyebrows raised inquiringly. “Fine, keep the brat,” Angelus said hoarsely, grimacing with pain as he tried to move. Spike stepped back and let Angelus pass as the other vampire limped slowly away, clinging to the wall for support.

Spike spun the metal bar away from him, hearing it clatter across the floor. Damnit! Why did Xander have to pick today of all days to visit? And damn Angelus for being such a trouble-making bastard.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Xander didn’t even know why he was running - it wasn’t like Spike could follow him. But running put distance between himself and Spike, which was what he felt like he needed right now. He gradually slowed to a walk, breathing heavily but kept moving, wandering randomly through town. He wasn’t ready to think about what had just happened but he was too upset and restless to even consider returning to school.

Looking around him, he discovered that his aimless movements had brought him near Mr. Olsen’s house. That was a good thought. Maybe going to see Mr. Olsen would help him calm down enough to think.

The Olsens were working in the garden when Xander arrived. Neither of them said anything directly about it being a school day, although Mr. Olsen asked Xander if he was all right. Xander just said he was restless and couldn't concentrate in class and had decided to take the day off. The Olsens seemed to accept that and simply invited Xander to join them in the garden and either watch or help, whichever he felt like.

Their undemanding company was exactly what he needed. It was surprisingly peaceful pulling weeds in the warm sun. His parents didn’t do any yard work and Xander himself hadn’t done anything beyond lawn mowing, so he’d never spent much time with plants. The Olsens clearly loved their garden. Mrs. Olsen talked about, and sometimes to, the plants like they were old friends as she puttered around doing minor pruning of bushes that looked fine to Xander. Mr. Olsen surprisingly didn't say much as he worked but he hummed quietly in a low bass, occasionally breaking into snatches of actual song.

Sitting on the grass, armed with a long tool with a forked point on the end, Xander spent his time pulling the dandelions that were invading the lawn. Mr. Olsen showed him how to use the tool to help get the full root out of the ground so the weed wouldn't grow back but then left him to his own devices, thanking Xander and admitting he couldn’t bend down comfortably enough anymore to keep up with the dandelions. With the afternoon sun slanting warmly through the trees, the soft patter of Mrs. Olsen's voice counterpointed by Mr. Olsen's tuneless humming, Xander felt his anger and resentment vanishing in a quiet feeling of contentment that was all too rare in his life, especially recently.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

When Xander left the Olsens’ house, he felt calmer than he had in a long time. He wondered if it was the gardening or the Olsens themselves that had such a relaxing effect. He even found himself wondering if he should start a small garden at his house but then dismissed the idea almost immediately. Any potential soothing benefit would be destroyed immediately by his father’s inevitable loud-voiced disdain for such a wimpy activity. His father was not a believer in sensitive, new age guys. He was much more a proponent of beer-guzzling, football watching, excess testosterone shedding, male-bonding type activities. Or so he claimed. His father didn’t actually seem to have any friends, male or female, so it was hard to tell if he really interacted with other guys that way. Not that Xander cared one way or another but, in any case, no garden at the old homestead, that was for sure.

He found he was walking away from his house, which was probably a good thing if he wanted to get some calm, rational thinking in. Despite what had happened, he knew Spike would come looking for him as soon as the sun set, so he’d better figure out what he wanted to say to the vampire before then.

Suddenly sure of his destination, Xander headed for Jesse’s grave. Maybe talking it over with Jesse would help get it clear in his own head.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

 

“Thought I might find you here, pet.”

It hadn’t been difficult figuring out where he would find his boy. Spike had paced the factory in frustration for hours, waiting for sunset and ignoring Angelus’ whines from his room. Served him right that he was in pain. Spike had left the factory when the sun was barely below the horizon and moved quickly through the early dusk heading for the small park where Xander had buried his friend. His boy always seemed to end up there when he was upset.

Xander didn’t look up from his study of the grass. “I needed to think.”

Spike sat down on the bench. “Reached a conclusion?” It was harder than he liked to keep his question casual.

“Yeah. I’ve been thinking that I may have overreacted.” His head came up and he gave Spike a hard look. “Don’t get me wrong, I’m still mad at you. I’m just not really sure I have the right to be.”

Spike shook his head and let out a short bark of laughter.

Xander glared at him. “Do the words ‘thin ice’ mean anything to you?”

Spike was still smiling as he said: “Sorry, luv. It’s just that wasn’t what I expected. Not many people surprise me,” he quirked one eyebrow, looking sideways down at Xander who still sat cross-legged on the grass. “Like it that you do. But that doesn’t mean I understood that last bit.”

“I’ve been thinking about my dad. He’s a real jerk a lot of the time but if he came to my house and said he needed a place to stay, I don’t think I’d turn him away.” He sighed and looked away. “Angel really messed with me last night and it completely freaked me out, so I’m not happy that he’s living with you, but I know there’s a bunch of other vampires already staying at the factory, so” he made a vague gesture “on some levels, I guess it doesn’t really change anything if Angel starts living there too.”

Spike was stunned. He’d come after Xander fully expecting to have to explain himself, no matter how much it rankled to have to justify his actions to anyone. Much as he hated to admit it, Angelus was right about one thing: humans didn’t understand vampire relationships. For Xander’s sake, Spike had been prepared to explain vampire politics and family relationships and why he’d felt compelled to let his Sire stay in his Court no matter how angry he’d been with Angelus. He was incredibly relieved he apparently wasn’t going to have to try and put the complexities into terms a human would understand.

Xander had fallen silent and Spike waited, considering what Xander had said and sure the boy wasn’t finished yet. He watched as Xander pulled handfuls of grass and let the blades trickle through his fingers. Whatever he was working himself up to say, Spike was afraid he wouldn’t like it. Finally, Xander spoke again, breaking the long silence between them but not looking up from the blades of grass he was still sifting through as if he was looking for answers in them.

“Spike, I’ve known you were a vampire since the first time we met. But we became friends and I didn’t really want to think about you being a vampire. I mean it’s one thing to admire your strength and skill and its another to think about the fact that you kill people.” He sighed heavily again and seemed to be struggling for words.

“I guess what I’m saying is that Angel may be a jerk but he isn’t really the problem. He’s just kind of brought the problem to a head.” Xander dropped the grass he’d been playing with and looked up at Spike, his eyes miserable but direct and full of determination.

“You’re a vampire, Spike and I’m a human. The bottom line is that I don’t see how I can stay friends with you, knowing that you’re killing people when we’re not together. I know that it’s what vampires do but I’m not a vampire.” His voice dropped to little more than a whisper. “I like you and maybe I even more than just like you, but I don’t think that I can live with myself if I just close my eyes indefinitely to the fact that you kill people.”

“I’m not.”

Spike’s voice was so quiet that Xander almost thought he’d imagined it. “Not what?”

“Not killing humans. Haven’t for awhile now.”

It hadn’t really been a conscious decision on Spike’s part to stop killing when he fed. Oh, he’d known for weeks that his boy was eventually going to raise the issue. No surprise there: humans always had a problem with it. The real shocker was that Xander had never directly asked Spike to stop killing. He’d been half expecting it as an inevitable step in his seduction of the boy: an “I’ll sleep with you if you stop killing humans” ploy.

Spike had surprised himself a few weeks back when he’d found himself dropping his prey one night before he’d drained the girl dry. He’d told himself he just wasn’t in the mood and that little self-deceit had lasted until the next night, when he’d done the same thing.

It really wasn’t a big deal in some ways: although there was some right twaddle out there about vampires gaining strength and even psychic powers from feeding off the deaths of humans, it wasn’t true. Vampires needed blood, not the death of their victims. Which was why his Sire had been such a complete prat for drinking pigs’ blood all these years. But, in other ways, it was huge. Killing might not be necessary for a vampire to survive but it was bloody fun to feel a neck crack between your hands and not killing could harm a vampire’s reputation so that other vampires felt that you’d gone soft and were an easy challenge. Spike had been very careful that no-one knew he wasn’t killing his prey. That and a few very public thrashings of demons for the sheer pleasure of it had both kept Spike in fighting trim and satisfied his need for a spot of violence now and then. And it never hurt your reputation to be known to occasionally pick fights with demons twice your size just for the hell of it.

Xander stared at him and Spike was just grateful that vampire physiology didn’t allow for blushes. He shrugged carelessly. “I feed but I don’t drain them. Just take a bit and let ‘em go. A pint or two at the hospital to top ‘em off and they’re fine.” He stopped, not wanting to sound like a complete sap by explaining it any further.

But Xander’s slowly widening smile said he understood and it warmed Spike more than fresh blood hot from the living source.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

“I’m sorry.”

Xander looked up at the sound of Willow’s quiet voice in the empty classroom. He’d arrived at school, ok a bit late - first period was already over, and the hallways had been filled with gossip about Buffy attacking the computer teacher. Most of the gossiping students claimed to have been in the classroom at the time and, although it seemed that the first period computer class had been surprisingly well-attended, Xander gathered from the excited whispers that Buffy had simply walked in and flattened Ms. Calendar with a choke hold. Unbelievable.

Knowing full well he tended to be fairly permanently on Buffy’s shit list, Xander decided on the spur of the moment that he didn’t really want to share a classroom with Buffy on a rampage. Accordingly, Xander had skipped his second period class and had found an empty classroom to study for the quiz he suspected Mr. Stevens was going to spring on them this afternoon. Willow had apparently followed him, meaning, Xander confirmed with a glance at the wall clock, she was currently committing the very un-Willow-like sin of cutting class.

“You were right, we should have told you what was going on. We just didn’t think it affected anyone except Buffy. I mean, Angel reverting to a typical vampire wasn’t a good thing but it’s not like he’s the only vampire in Sunnydale, so I guess we just didn’t realize that it made much difference except on a personal level for Buffy.”

Xander shut his book and marshaled his thoughts. “Willow, you’ve been telling me for months how much you’ve been learning about what’s really going on in Sunnydale, didn’t that apply to Angel? Didn’t you guys ever check out his story? You know, check out his curse and find out whether it was permanent or not? ’Cause I can only assume that it had some kind of expiration date that sure would have been nice to know.”

Willow’s lips tightened but she didn’t snap back at him; still feeling guilty, Xander diagnosed. He took advantage of her silence to continue: “Willow, the reason I was so pissed is because all vampires are not created equal, well, they may be created mostly equal but they don’t end up that way.” He shook his head in exasperation at the way his words went spiraling out on tangents. “What I mean is that Angelus is a 250 year old Master Vampire. He’s not just another fledgling that can’t think beyond his next meal and that Buffy can stake with one hand tied behind her back. He’s seriously dangerous to everyone, not just Buffy.”

“I know that, the night we found out he’d lost his soul, he almost strangled me.”

Xander’s eyes went to her throat and he was relieved that he didn’t see any marks. Whatever had happened couldn’t have been too bad. Fortunately, mention of being almost strangled helped him keep his temper under control. “See, that’s kind of my problem: you say you know but you guys don’t ever seem to think of anyone outside your little circle. Angelus has this charming history just chock-full of fun incidents of torture and mayhem. And his typical pattern says we are all his preferred targets. You and Mr. Giles because of your connection with Buffy and me because of my connection with Spike.”

Xander wondered if he should tell her about everything that Spike had told him. Spike had talked to him for some time last night about Angel: describing Angel’s long and violent history of obsession with his victims, toying with them, often for a long time, before finally killing them. Apparently, it hadn’t been unusual for Angelus to kill everyone his victims knew first before actually attacking the victims themselves. Spike’s warning had been graphic and deadly serious. Before Spike had walked him home, Xander had felt like crawling under his bed and never coming out again. He could tell Spike was worried about him and that both pleased and terrified him. He really didn’t want to think that he could become the target of one of Angel’s little gifts to his main victim.

As Spike had left him at his door, he’d said: “Sorry, pet, this wasn’t how I thought the next week or two would go. I don’t want you and Angelus crossing paths again if it’s possible to avoid it. I’ll need some time to figure out how to handle Angelus and that means I probably won’t see you for a few days.”

Xander smiled, remembering how upset Spike had looked as he’d said that, then pulled himself back to the present. “What?” He’d missed what Willow said in his abstraction.

“I said: Giles is looking into Angel’s history and Buffy and I are going to be extra careful.”

“Good, I’m glad to hear it.” Xander was relieved that he wouldn’t have to explain the gory facts of Angelus to Willow, hearing it once had been bad enough, he didn’t want to have to repeat it to anyone else. Let Mr. Giles have that thankless job. A horrible thought occurred to him suddenly. “You haven’t ever invited Angel into your house, have you?”

Willow’s eyes widened and she went still. “Yes, oh god, I did invite him in.”

Xander swore sharply and thought that Willow finally was taking this as seriously as she should when she didn’t automatically scold him for swearing. Then he realized, with a sudden stab of grief for their lost friendship, that he didn’t know if Willow did that anymore or if she had learned to live with swearing. Maybe she even used profanity herself now; he honestly didn’t know and that thought filled him with sorrow. He shook off the feeling sharply, there wasn’t time for this.

“Come on,” he said, shoving his book into his backpack. “Let’s go talk to Mr. Giles.” He led the way to the library, Willow hurrying by his side. As they walked, Willow told him that Angel’s curse had had some sort of “happiness clause”, that Angel had lost his soul because he had experienced a moment of perfect happiness, which the gypsies hadn’t ever wanted to happen. Xander could just bet how Angel got his moment of happiness. Once again, he was disgusted by the complete lack of foresight shown by the sanctimonious little group. Surely there was some mention somewhere of the happiness clause, enough to have prevented this fiasco.

He opened the door to the library, automatically holding it open for Willow and called out: “Mr. Giles?”

“Yes?” The librarian emerged from his office. As always, he had a book clutched in one hand with a finger slipped between the pages to mark his place. With a discerning eye, Xander saw it was one of the Watcher diaries. “Reading up on Angelus?” he asked, gesturing to the book.

“Yes,” the librarian confirmed. “I understand you have been informed of the rather unfortunate turn of events.”

Xander’s eyebrows shot up. “If by ‘unfortunate events’ you mean the exciting return of Angelus, the sociopathic Master vampire, yeah, I was informed. A bit late but fortunately Angel didn’t actually kill me during the delay.”

He heard Willow muttering beside him, “I said I was sorry,” but ignored her. He wasn’t going to forgive her that easily but his lingering resentment was not the point. “Look, Spike gave me a run down last night on how dangerous Angelus is. Do the Watcher Diaries cover the situation or do you need to know what Spike told me?”

“The coverage of Angelus’ first century as a vampire is rather extensive. As it is of Spike’s activities,” the librarian added, completely gratuitously in Xander’s opinion but he let it go.

“However, it would perhaps be best to compare notes to see if Spike has any information that is not contained in the Watchers’ accounts. As Angelus’ Childe, he has a unique perspective not shared by the Watchers.”

Xander nodded. Sharing the information with Mr. Giles would be relatively easy. He would be able to handle the gory details in a dry, academic fashion that would make repeating it much simpler. “So, you’ve made sure Buffy and Willow understand how dangerous he is to them?” he asked pointedly.

Mr. Giles returned his look with one that was equally sharp. “I can assure you, Mr. Harris, that I have not neglected my duties in that regard.”

“Good.” Xander didn’t mention that he felt the Watcher had seriously fallen down on the job in not preventing this in the first place. “Did Willow tell you that she’s invited Angelus into her home?”

Oh, dear lord,” Mr. Giles exclaimed.

“Sorry, Giles,” Willow said meekly, “I’d forgotten. It was just once, oh, wait - twice,” she added apologetically.

“Yes, well, once is quite sufficient. And Buffy is in the same situation.” As always, Mr. Giles turned to his books, heading for his office and returning shortly with several volumes which he set down on the table. “I suspect this is not the first time this situation has arisen. Let’s start by checking these for spells to revoke an invitation.”

Somewhat bemused by Mr. Giles’ easy assumption that they were at his disposal for research, Xander snagged the top volume and opened it without protest. It was important and the faster they found a spell, the safer Willow and Buffy would be.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

It took barely an hour before they found a spell that Mr. Giles thought would work. They left to return to class, Mr. Giles promising to gather the necessary ingredients and perform the spell at both Willow’s and Buffy’s houses before sunset.

Xander picked up his backpack and stretched, relieved that Mr. Giles seemed to be taking Angelus’ return seriously. Spike had thoroughly convinced Xander of the danger but he was relieved he didn’t have to try and convince Mr. Giles based on what Spike had said. It was obvious that the librarian hadn’t changed his opinion of Spike, despite the fact that Spike had honored the truce with Buffy but this didn’t seem like a good time to say anything. With Angel’s little change of heart, it was highly unlikely that Mr. Giles would be receptive to reconsidering his position on Spike.

Willow followed Xander out of the library and walked down the hall with him. He glanced over at her, somewhat surprised that she was staying with him. It had been so long that it felt weird to be walking through the halls together. He’d gotten so used to being alone at school that he didn’t really know what to say to her.

Willow smiled at him. “That was fun, wasn’t it,” she said tentatively. “Researching together like that, I mean. Not the actual we-need-to-stop-impending-doom situation with Angel having a open sesame into our homes, but the research party part. Buffy isn’t so good with research, she gets impatient and misses stuff, and Giles is really serious about it and so there isn’t any joking around when it’s just me and him.”

Xander had an awful feeling that she was going to invite him to their little meetings again and was steeling himself to refuse when it occurred to him that he was going to have a lot of lonely nights for awhile. Plus, it sounded like he wouldn’t get to see much of Spike until Spike had figured out the best way to deal with Angelus so maybe researching the problem with full access to the librarian’s books would be the best way to help Spike out.

Willow’s voice washed over him as he considered. “…you’ve gotten really good at research, you went through the books almost as fast as Mr. Giles, so you could really help. I have a feeling we’re going to be doing a lot of research in the next few weeks and because it’s Angel, I don’t think Buffy will be much help.” She looked up at him expectantly and Xander assumed he’d missed the actual question in her flow of words.

“I agree, Angel is going to cause serious problems for all of us. So, yeah, I’ll help with the research on him.”

Willow smiled and he gave her a similar hesitant smile back. Researching together might be a way to rebuild their friendship but Xander for one was reserving judgment on that. He suspected that Buffy at least would not be thrilled at his sudden inclusion in their little secret circle of do-gooders. And, as much as he hated to even think it, he wasn’t entirely sure he and Willow could ever be friends again. Maybe researching together would give them a chance to talk without friction, at least enough to find out if they still had anything in common.

If nothing else, seeing how Buffy handled losing her boyfriend to the dark side of the Force might be entertaining. He realized that thought probably made him a bad person, but hey, there was a lot of that going around just now and he could live with it.

TBC

 

 

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