Even at night it wasn't necessarily safe to visit. Regardless of her lack of success to date in catching them, Buffy had remained vigilant in her attempts. Kinda flattering in a way regardless of how hurtful.
He still found himself looking back and wondering what he could have done differently. Even knowing that despite his actions kick-starting things, he wasn't ultimately to blame didn't help to mitigate the guilt.
The love spell had taken longer to wear off of vampires than humans. What should have been a safe, if embarrassing, walk home with Buffy lecturing him on the dangers of messing with magic had turned into so much more. Drusilla had surprised them – determined to make the dark kitten belong to her. So fixated on claiming him that shockingly Buffy got the drop on her and suddenly she was gone. Dusted in front of him so that she mixed in his hair and making him sneeze. The rest of the walk home continued in silence.
They should have expected retribution but they had their minds on Angelus and his plans with Acathla. And vampires didn't feel love so why would any of them expect the mourning of Spike, take his insistence that he would get his revenge seriously?
It was months later – Acathla safely hidden once more, Angelus re-souled and suitably penitent – that it happened. Angel had counselled them to be vigilant, that Spike wouldn't easily forget or forgive what they had done. But as usual, they ignored his advice – after all, he wasn't to be trusted after the whole Angelus débâcle.
Buffy had walked Willow home but Giles had received an important call from the UK and Xander had said he was okay to make it home alone. He'd never made it, Spike attacking him less than two blocks from Giles' home.
Even in the middle of the pain of being bitten and drained, Xander had been aware of the blond vampire ranting about losing his dark princess. It didn't take a genius to realise that this was the revenge Spike had gone on about and hearing the pain in his voice, Xander felt a few moments of sympathy – how dreadful, to be in love for over 100 years and lose that person. Then he knew nothing more.
Waking up with Deadboy as a sire didn't figure in his plans. Initially, blood was his number one driving force – that and actively hating the dark haired vampire for not leaving him to die in peace. It took some time to realise that Angel was keeping him safe, hiding him away. He remembered when he finally surfaced from his blood lust after a very hazy sixteen months, finally asking the question that Angel had obviously been dreading.
“Buffy? Willow?” Once his brain was back online, it wasn't exactly a hardship living in the rather sumptuous abode that Angel had acquired for them. It sure beat the hell out of his parents' basement and living with Angel was actually easier than living with his parents, apart from the knock-down, drag out fights about respect – for his Sire, for human life, for his second chance. For the first few months, Angel was a far better parent to him than his biological father had ever been – after that, well their feelings hadn't remained those of father and son.
“I'm sorry Xander.”
“What – they're dead?!”
“NO! God, no. They – look, you have to understand. To them, a vampire is just a vampire – it's a demon in the shell of a human body. They couldn't see that with enough blood, the right beginning, as a childe you would be more or less yourself. They didn't give me the opportunity to show them that Spike hadn't won.”
“What the hell does that mean?? I know you kept me away from them – I thought it was because I was a bit – a bit blood thirsty, not - “
“No. If anyone was blood thirsty, it was them. Buffy wanted you dead – wanted to stake the vampire wearing her friend's body. I had to get you away from them you see.”
“But surely Willow – Willow would have at least given me the chance to - “
“No. She was mad with grief. Her parents took her away. It was just Buffy and Giles and without the group support, the humanising effect if you will, Buffy lost her way.”
“I don't understand – how do you mean, she lost her way?”
“Xander, it was you and Willow who gave Buffy a face to put to her fight – you humanised her. With you dead – as far as she was concerned – and Willow gone, she – she - “
“She just became like every other slayer.”
“Yes, I'm sorry. It's why we had to leave Sunnydale – she was determined to stake you and I couldn't stand the idea of that. In the beginning I thought she might change her mind but after a time, well - “
“After a time what?” He'd still been reeling from the idea that his best friend had left town despite knowing some of him was still around and Buffy had become the Watcher's Council's ultimate soldier. It took him a few moments to realise what his senses were telling him. Realise, consider, accept. He knew it would take a lot more gumption than Deadboy normally showed to make anything happen, so obeying his instinctive desire for comfort from his Sire, he threw himself into Angel's arms. But this time, instead of merely hugging and being hugged, he deliberately nicked his lower lip so that the tang of his blood hit the air. He felt Angel's almost instant response but this time, he refused to let the other vampire pull away. How often had he felt this over the last sixteen months and pretended not to notice? How often had he experienced the same and put it down to insane vampire sexual needs?
“Xander - “
“I'm – it's understandable, it really is. Your demon wants to appease your sire, but you don't want this. You need to think of me like a, a surrogate father or something.”
“Is that what you were to Spike?” Angel's face fell and the scent of pain wafted into his nose, burning with it's acrid 'taste'.
“No. Spike needed a real father but I wasn't that to him. I pushed him too far, too much and – he made a fantastic companion for Drusilla but I know I drove him to many of his excesses. I didn't want that for you. You were always Buffy's White Knight – I wanted you to have a chance to stay that and - “
“You're gonna bottle it aren't you?”
“Do you ever use those vampire senses Deadboy? What do you smell when you make the effort to smell me?”
“Xander – you're just confused. You don't want - “
“I don't want a new daddy Deadboy. I have one – useless bastard that he is. What I need is for you to stick your neck out one more time and take what you really want.”
Who knew beneath that conservative exterior that Deadboy could be as romantic as any Irishman? Xander knew now though. He'd been swept off his feet and Angel had shown him that demons did indeed know how to make love. And with over two hundred years of practice, he was very, very good at it.
“I just wanted to say goodbye.”
“I know.” Angel appeared at his shoulder, shielding him from the worst of the cold wind. Strange to think that here he was after over fifteen years avoiding Buffy's attempts to eradicate him from existence. The oldest living Slayer, obsessed with finishing off the vampire with a Soul and the childe he fell in love with. “We can't stay. I heard from Gunn – she was spotted crossing the Sunnydale entrance sign.”
“Okay.” He looked down at the headstone, not surprised at the lack of sentiment from Willow's parents. Just her name, her birth date, the day she died. “I wish I had something to say.” He rested his head on Angel's shoulder, knowing he would understand.
“Dust you are, and to dust you will return. Rest in peace Willow Rosenberg.”
“That was kinda beautiful.”
“Something I remember from funerals when I was young.”
“Anything for you – you know that. Now come on – we don't want a repeat of Texas.” The scowl Angel gave made him grin, poking the older vampire in the stomach.
“That so wasn't my fault – I didn't know she'd be there.....”
“No, but you didn't have to lead her on a wild goose chase. You're enough to turn my hair white!” An affectionate arm around his waist, a strong hand ruffling his hair and Xander sighed. No, he definitely hadn't needed a new parent – but he had been so damned lucky to find a love that he reckoned could well rival Spike and Drusilla's one hundred years given the opportunity. Speaking of Spike -
“Any news on the chip? On Spike?”
“Maybe. When I left he was arguing with Wesley about something that happened at Cambridge. I think he likes the idea of a new family – considers himself to be a bit of a matchmaker which means we owe him.”
“No surprise there then.”
“No, no surprise.” Xander allowed himself to look back once more then turned to face his future.