Disclaimer: The boys don't belong to me... and they never will. Saddly.
Summary: Xander is changing and no one knows why. Separating himself from the Scoobies and trying to find out who he really is he finds something that he never would have expected...
Note: I want to say a big, a really big thank you to whichclothes who helped me as my muse and my beta! And thanks to warpedminded for creating the banner!
Previous chapters here!
Xander took the seat opposite Angel and made himself comfortable. He leaned back and smiled a cruel little smile. The older vampire looked at him and it seemed that he tried to assess the situation and the mortal on the other side of the table. Anger was still waving through Xander's body and his muscles were tense.
“You wanted to talk to me, Deadboy,” Xander said lightly. He held his hands up as if to show that he was ready.
“Here I am. So, talk!” His voice was even, calm. Like it didn't matter that in front of him sat a two-hundred-something year old vampire that could easily rip his head off. His anger at the vampire kept him on his toes but at the same time made him think about foolish things to say.
“Harris,” Angel started then stopped again as if he didn't know what to say. Xander didn't take the unintentional bait and kept his mouth firmly shut.
Minutes passed and both men stared at each other. Two sets of deep brown eyes fought for dominance and neither of them wanted to submit to the other. Xander felt his muscles relax and it surprised him. Under normal circumstances he would be wound as tight as a bowstring and waiting for the vampire to make the first move. Now he felt nothing of that tenseness.
Finally, after what felt like hours Angel admitted defeat and lowered his gaze to the table. Xander smiled softly. He had won and it felt good.
“Angel,” he said and caused the vampire to look back up at him curiously. A fake sigh escaped his lips and he leaned forward resting his elbows on the table surface.
“If you want to have a talk with me you actually have to say something so I can answer and tell you that your accusations are wrong.” Gold flecked the brown eyes of the dark vampire.
“Why do you think that they are wrong?” Xander laughed at the growling vampire and leaned back again.
“Tell you what, you tell me what you think Spike has been doing and then I tell you my version of it,” he proposed with a gentle voice that sent a visible shiver through Angel.
Again the vampire remained silent and Xander's anger flared a bit. He pushed the chair back and stood up.
“Fine, if you don't want to start then I will do it for you,” he said, his voice still gentle, a stark contrast to his behaviour.
“You think that something has to be up because there is no reason we would show up here otherwise, right?” A silent but confident nod was his answer.
“Why do you think that?” Xander asked and went to stand behind his chair his hands on the backrest. Angel looked confused.
“You do have a reason why you think that, don't you?” This time Angel sighed and rubbed the bridge of his nose as if he had to explain something to an insanely dumb child even though he was the one who didn't understand.
“Xander,” he started and it even sounded like was speaking to a small child. Something that made the mortal's skin itch.
“There has never been a situation where you would come up here without the need for either a fighter or some help for your research. It makes no sense; besides Buffy none of you has really anything to do with my team. And then all of a sudden you arrive here with Spike and expect me to not get suspicious?” Angel looked genuinely confused and it soothed the flaring anger in Xander a bit.
'We have nothing to do with you except that you tried to kill us. But sadly I can't say that because then I would bring up the past, something I don't do with Spike and if I want to act mature I have to let it stay in the past.' The thought rushed through his head but he kept it to himself. No need to send the older vampire brooding again.
'As if he won't do it when I'm through with him.'
“I guess you are right,” he conceded and growled at the triumphant look in the vampire’s face.
“Oh don't get that smug, Deadboy, you have guessed one reason right, nothing more and definitely nothing to write home about.” As fast as the look had appeared in Angel's eyes it vanished again confusion returning again.
“The thing you are wrong about is the fact that Spike has no friends,” Xander said and sat down again placing his feet on the table. He smiled at Angel's offended expression.
“He has no friends, this is a fact. He works with you that's all,” the vampire said and it was audible that he tried to stay calm. Xander could feel the adrenaline rush through his veins.
“And that is where you are wrong, my dear Deadboy,” he laughed and the cruel smile returned to his lips.
“Spike has friends. Tara likes him very much and so do I.”
“Oh, please!” Angel scoffed angrily.
“I want to know what kind of spell he placed on you and Tara. When we break it you will find that there is nothing about Spike that would be friend material!” Xander jumped to his feet and leaned over the table until he was in Angel's face. Their noses were almost touching and he could see the effort it took the vampire to not flinch back at the nearness of temptation.
'You want it, too, Angel. Admit it. You need the blood. You crave it.' He knew that the head of Angel Investigations would never act on the temptation even though it had to be hard to resist and just rely on pig's blood. It wasn't nourishing enough and didn't really help the vampire heal. Xander and Spike had talked about it one night when the vampire had been severely hurt. It was before they really became friends and the talk was seasoned with insults and barbs but in the end he understood that Spike took the pig's blood and still kept fighting with them because they were the only ones who didn't kill him on sight. It was the first night he had opened his vein and gave his blood to the blond vampire. He never forgot the way Spike's blue eyes lit up with first confusion and then gratitude.
“And what makes you different?” Xander asked quietly when his mind returned to the office and Spike's Sire. He cocked his head to the side as if he wanted to kiss Angel. The vampire swallowed and started breathing shallowly.
“What do you mean?” Angel asked and averted his gaze again.
“One simple thing, Deadboy. A really simple thing,” Xander practically purred and the familiar tingling at the edge of his mind grew a little.
“All I want to know is what makes you better than Spike. What is the difference between you and him? Why are you friend material and he's not? Because if I interpreted the whole situation from past experiences and what I saw today you are friends with Cordy, Gunn and Wes, aren't you?” Xander kept his gaze steady and smiled a dangerous little smile when Angel started to fidget.
'That's right Deadboy,' he thought gleefully.
'Just keep denying the truth. It will be fun to set your head straight and open your eyes.'
A warm feeling spread through him and he savoured it.
“Well,” Angel started in a weak voice before a hand stopped him again.
“Don't even try to find something, Deadboy.” Xander sighed.
“There is no difference between you and him. Except for the chip maybe, Spike isn't able to feed properly and Buffy and the rest of the Scoobies, me included, we didn't see it or didn't want to see that he was starving.” Sadness thickened his voice and Angel gasped at the regret that shone through. Xander’s anger had evaporated within seconds of the replaying memory.
“Hell, Spike isn't even able to defend himself from a toddler and even less from humans who he should hunt not hide from!” The last part of the sentence was yelled and this time the vampire really flinched back while Xander pushed himself back and started pacing the office. Anger, pain, helplessness and every other emotion he felt mixed together until he couldn't tell where one ended and the other began.
“Can you even imagine how he feels, Angel?” he asked when he stopped for a second to look at the tall vampire whose eyes widened at the use of his name. Finally the storm of emotions calmed after a few more minutes of walking through the room.
Again hot anger raged inside him and Xander didn't even wait for an answer. He paced the office from one side to the other and carded his hands through his hair.
“I can't believe what we did when he got hurt in a fight he would have won single-handed if he had been at his full strength! We laughed at him! We made fun of him! We nearly crushed him and all he wanted was one simple thing. One small and simple thing. Oh yes, he complained constantly and insulted us but I know that it was the only way he could protect the already crushed pieces of his heart. And we refused to give him the only thing that mattered the most to him.”
Xander stopped ranting and pacing. Instead he leaned heavily against the wall causing the blinds to move a little. A small ray of sunlight seeped through. It reminded him of the day he had found Spike in his crypt the door wide open and the vampire sitting inches away from the sunlight. His heart clenched when he thought about the forlorn expression on the beautiful face and the hopelessness in those blue eyes. A low growl rose from his chest and made the dark vampire look at him.
Angel stood up and came to him with cautious steps. When he stood next to the mortal he hesitated. Minutes passed while the man waited and the vampire tried to find the right words.
“What was it?” came the quiet and softly asked question. Xander looked up at him and smiled at Angel. The older vampire could care if he wanted to, that was clear to him.
“To belong,” he whispered and closed his eyes for a second. The anger he had felt at Angel had disappeared and all that was left was the grief about the helplessness of his friend.
“To belong,” Angel repeated with a thick voice. Xander nodded softly.
“That was the reason he came here?” Disbelief and confusion coloured the question and the anger flared again.
'Isn't that enough?' he thought and for a second his vision got crystal clear. Clearer than a normal human being should see. Then it went away again.
“Yes that was the reason! Why do you think he would have chosen you to visit? You are all he has left! You are his Sire, the only family he has! If he doesn't belong to you then to whom does he?” Pushing the vampire to the side Xander staggered forward until he leaned against the table again. Breathing heavily he tried to get himself back under control. His temper was a vicious enemy and he couldn't let it win. Not with Angel.
“But,” Angel stopped at the first word and it seemed that he was finally starting to think.
'About bloody time,' Xander thought and smiled softly.
'Seems like I spent too much time with a certain blond vampire.' He closed his eyes and listened carefully. The vampire stood motionless but the slight breathing betrayed the inner turmoil.
“So there never was a spell, then,” Angel concluded and his voice sounded tired.
“Not even a tiny one, no,” Xander confirmed softly, his muscles still trembling with anger. When the vampire moved around the office Xander gripped the table and held on tightly. He could actually feel the dents forming under his fingers. The clinking of glasses made him look up. Angel stood at one of his bookshelves and was taking a bottle with amber liquid out of a hollowed book. When the vampire met his eyes Xander raised one eyebrow questioningly and smiled when the other one quickly averted his eyes.
“Since when are you drinking alcohol?” he asked when Angel walked over to him with two glasses and a bottle of whisky.
“Sometimes you need the liquid courage,” was the sighed answer.
Xander watched silently when the amber liquid splashed a little before settling inside the glass. Taking the one he was offered he removed himself from the table and sat back down again. Angel did the same and for a second the atmosphere around them was relaxed. It felt like they had been friends for a long time and now met to get themselves reacquainted.
The moment passed though and they were back to being some kind of opponents.
Taking a sip from the whisky, Xander watched Angel closely. The tall vampire looked tired. His shoulders were slouched and his brown eyes had lost the fire they always held. Somehow Xander felt sad about it since he secretly loved the way the brown changed with the feelings of the vampire. Just like Spike, Angel was able to hide his true emotions behind a tough mask except for the eyes. They always betrayed them.
“What happened after he got the soul?” Angel asked quietly. Xander sighed. He had expected that question sooner or later.
“Well, okay then. First, how much do you know about Buffy and Spike's relationship?” he asked carefully noticing every move the other one made.
“What do you mean with relationship? They didn't have one, except maybe the one going from enemy to ally. But if you ask something like that there was one, right?” Angel growled but Xander could pick the sadness out even without his enhanced hearing.
“After we brought Buffy back from the dead she was like a shell. Since we pulled her out of heaven it is quite understandable.” He took another sip from the whisky.
“Spike... really is a caring person. Even before he got his soul he was able to take care of Drusilla. He loved her. I don't know if he loved Buffy as much as he loved Dru but he tried everything to get her back. In the end they ended up together but it never was an equal relationship, I guess. When Buffy noticed that Spike did nearly everything she asked she kind of abused this power.” Xander paused and drank a little more. Angel remained quiet but he listened to every word. The only thing that made the mortal uncomfortable was the total lack of emotion the vampire showed.
“After Spike got his soul he thought he would be good enough and that Buffy would finally love him as much as he did her but...” Xander halted and looked Angel straight in the eyes. The fire was back but it didn't seem like it was burning for the lost love of the Slayer.
“She didn't. She changed. At first it was okay. Spike and Buffy became some kind of friends I guess. Then all of a sudden she changed again. I don't know why but I want to find out. She acted colder to him than she had in the beginning. Her insults became even more aggressive and when they were sparring she tried to intentionally hurt him.” Angel growled and ripped Xander from his memories. When he looked up he could see that the vampire was in full game-face.
“Who are you growling at, Angel?” he asked softly. His drink stood forgotten in front of him.
“Are you growling at Spike, because he was feeling something? Or do you growl at Buffy for hurting your Childe?” The vampire fell silent and slowly the game-face melted away again.
“I can't imagine her doing that,” he admitted and downed his drink.
“After he went to get his soul and finally realised his mistakes...”
“Stop Angel,” Xander interrupted him sharply. When the vampire looked up he smiled a bit.
“The soul is not necessary for a vampire to recognize the mistakes he made. Spike knew what he did wrong well before he got his soul. The thing that makes you regret what you did is the last bit of humanity left in you – the conscience. You have it, even as a demon. If it wouldn't be like that then why are there demons who can live peacefully within mankind?”
Angel frowned slightly.
“But if it is the conscience then why did I need my soul to get the demon under control?” he asked and looked Xander who rubbed his tired eyes.
“I don't know for sure but I guess the reason is that something from your life as a human stayed behind. Something like an emotion you felt the night you were turned and that this emotion is what the demon latched onto. After that I think it could happen like it is written in the Watcher's Diaries. The demon takes in everything that you have been including your dreams and desires. The wish that is the greatest one you have and then he twists it to fit the way it chooses to live,” Xander said. He didn't mention the obvious. Angel's pain stricken face was enough to confirm him that he had hit close to home.
“If it is like you say then why do I feel the demon in the back of my mind and always have to make sure that he doesn't take over?” Xander suppressed a sigh and looked into his glass which was still nearly full.
“Because you can't accept the demon. The soul is the strengthened part of humanity, the demon is what it is. If one can accept the other they can co-exist. However, if one part refuses to accept it ends up like the fight you have going on between the demon and yourself.”
Sitting back he watched Angel process all he had said.
“How do you know that much?” asked the vampire and confusion mixed with frustration coloured the small voice.
“Partly from the Diaries. You don't know how much you can learn if you are able to read between the lines. The other part comes from talking with Spike,” Xander answered tiredly and ignored the slight snort from Angel who immediately looked chastised and a bit ashamed.
“You really are his friend, aren't you?” Angel asked after a few moments passed in silence.
“I care about him. I like him and I like his company. I even like the things I don't like on him but that makes friends, right? To accept what you can't change?” Closing his eyes Xander thought about how young and vulnerable Spike had looked when he had left.
“You should go to him,” the vampire's voice disturbed his thoughts.
“I need to think about a few things that you said.”
Nodding tiredly Xander stood up and placed the still nearly full glass onto the table before he went to the door. Hesitating he turned back to look at Angel. The dark vampire was slumped in his chair, his eyes closed. One hand rested the glass against his forehead the other one gripped the table hard. Smiling a little Xander opened the door.
“Oh, and Angel?” When the vampire looked at him he couldn't suppress a smug smile.
“Don't deny that you care about Spike. The rooms are beautiful and they fit him like a glove. And if you need to talk about what you just heard, come to me. Even though I'm not sure why I said that right now but I mean it. As long as it keeps Spike happy I'm willing to try and get along with you.”
Without saying anything further Xander closed the door behind himself and started walking towards his and Spike's rooms.
Spike was still asleep when Xander returned to his room and he was grateful for it. As he predicted the vampire was hopelessly entangled in the shirt he had left there. Grinning softly he kicked off his boots and shrugged out off his clothes before he put on a pair of boxers and climbed into the bed. Almost immediately Spike plastered himself again the warm body.
Enveloping the smaller man in his arms Xander inhaled the clean, cool scent of the vampire which always reminded him of a sunny winter day. Letting his mind drift off he tightened his arms a little more and finally fell into a deep and dreamless sleep.