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The Best Laid Plans

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Spike stood in the shadows and watched the Slayer with her friends. The Bronze was packed so there was little chance of being discovered. As he watched the little group, he found himself reassessing the tiny blond. He wasn’t used to slayers having friends. Killing this one might actually take some work. He smiled. He just loved a challenge. The smile faded as he watched Angel join the group. Now that was just sick. A vampire and a slayer. He shuddered. He felt an intense burning hatred in his gut as he watched his grandsire.

He wanted to hurt Angel; needed to hurt him. Because the bastard had ripped Dru apart when he left and Spike had had to spend the last century trying to pick up the pieces. Not to mention the abuse Darla had heaped on him and Dru after Angelus had deserted them. She’d been practically insane at losing her childe and she’d taken her pain and rage out on the rest of the family. Spike would never forgive Angelus for the tortures they’d endured because of him. Angel would pay, tenfold, for the abuse heaped on his childer at his desertion. Spike’s eyes narrowed. It was time to make a plan.


Days later and Spike was beginning to get a glimmer of an idea. The best way to make Angel suffer was to make Buffy suffer. When he’d come to Sunnydale, Buffy was his target merely because she was the slayer and as such, could royally screw up his plans to cure Dru. Now it was becoming more personal. And he now knew that the best way to hurt Buffy would be to hurt one of her friends. He was planning on draining one of them and leaving the body on Buffy’s doorstep. Nice, simple, and to the point. He just hadn’t decided on which one yet. He knew he was taking a big risk, hiding in the library and spying on them without the cover of more people. But the danger added a little spice to his unlife.

He watched Red as she and the Watcher chatted about some obscure book they were researching. He’d originally thought to get rid of the old man; that would really hit the Slayer where it hurt. But the few times he’d gotten close to the man he’d gotten a sense of...menace. A feeling that the Watcher had a dark side he kept tightly contained. Spike had decided it would be more interesting to keep him around. He might be fun to play with later. That left Red and the boy.

Spike was startled out of his musing by the arrival of his grandsire. Poof looked miserable and broody, as usual. Spike snorted. The bastard acted all high and mighty now but Spike knew what he really was. Oh the stories he could tell the Scoobies about the monster in their midst. He was jerked out of his musings by a familiar smell; one he hadn’t smelled in almost one hundred years but he recognized it instantly. His grandsire’s arousal. The Slayer must have finally decided to show up. He looked around but didn’t see Buffy anywhere. The only person to enter the library was Xander. Realization hit Spike and he smiled coldly. This new development was absolutely priceless.


Two weeks of covertly watching the Scoobies and Spike’s suspicions were confirmed. It seemed Angel still had a thing for pretty young boys. He’d studied Angel; seen the way the vampire’s dark eyes followed the boy when no one else was looking, the way Angel did his best to keep Xander out of harm’s way, the almost imperceptible flinches when the boy would deride him. And under it all the subtlest hint of want whenever Angel got near Xander. Spike could practically feel Angelus’ frustration at not being allowed to take what he wanted. Spike now had the perfect pawn; hurting Harris would hurt Angel twice. His grandsire would feel Buffy’s pain at the loss of her friend and Angel would have lost someone he secretly desired for himself.

Spike had originally planned on going with his first idea; drain the boy and leave him for Buffy to find. With that he mind, he’d planted himself outside the Harris household to wait for his opportunity. He’d heard yelling and had gone to the window to investigate. Xander stood in the middle of the living room, head down, body rigid as he absorbed the verbal blows from his father.

“Are you so stupid that you can’t fucking tell time? Every night it’s the same shit. ‘I’m sorry, Dad. I forgot.’ Useless piece of shit. Christ. Why the hell your mother and I kept you I’ll never know. You’re not good for a damn thing.”

Spike watched Xander carefully. The boy never moved, just stood there with his hands balled into fists at his sides. Spike had left then but he’d made it a point to watch Xander and not Angel over the next few days. He’d seen the way the boy would light up whenever Buffy or Willow hugged him; the stunned pleasure on his face when Giles would pat his shoulder or thank him for helping with the research. The lad was starved for affection. He wanted to be loved. And that made him vulnerable.

Spike revised his plan one last time; seduce the boy and then leave him. Much better than killing him outright. He’d be broken hearted and Buffy wouldn’t be able to do anything to help. And Angel would have to live with the knowledge that the boy was no longer innocent, no longer pure. That he’d given himself to Spike...willingly. It was time to go to work.


Xander sat in the library, staring at the book in front of him. He was supposed to be researching but was actually amusing himself by shooting imaginary wooden stakes at Angel’s broad back. Xander had hated the vampire at first sight and when Angel had tried to feed Xander to Spike...well that just clinched it. Angel was not to be trusted. And it really bugged him that the rest of the gang couldn’t see it. Even worse, they seemed to think it was jealously that made Xander hate Angel. But it wasn’t. Well, ok, fine. Maybe he was a little jealous but that didn’t change facts. Something about Angel bugged Xander. And just because Xander couldn’t quite put his finger on what bugged him didn’t change anything. He sighed and turned to the group.

“I can’t believe we still don’t know what Spike is up to.” Buffy was saying.

“We need to keep looking. If Spike is here you can bet that he’s up to something big.” Angel replied.

“This is all your fault, you know.” Xander hadn’t meant to say it out loud. He blushed when he realized everyone was looking at him. “Well it is! He made Drusilla so whatever they’re up to is his fault.”

Angel sighed. “He’s right. They’re here because of me.”

Buffy laid a consoling hand on his arm and Xander rolled his eyes. Geez, even when the guy admitted he was a jerk no one cared. They just did the whole feel-sorry-for-him-cuz-he’s-got-a-soul crap. Giles came out of his office with another book.

“Nothing here, I’m afraid. Buffy, maybe you should do another patrol. See if any of the resident demons know anything about what Spike could be up to.”

“Sure, Angel and I can do that.” She headed out the door, Angel behind her.

Xander rolled his eyes again. Willow packed away her books and stood.

“Think I’ll head home. I’ve got homework. Unless you need anything else, Giles?”

“No, you go on home. We’ll meet tomorrow before school and see if Buffy’s patrol turned up anything new.”

Xander and Willow grabbed their things and left. Xander offered to walk Willow home. She was quiet, which Xander knew was a very bad thing.

“Spill it.”

“Huh? What are you talking about?”

“Hello, Will, friend since kindergarten here. You want to say something.”

She looked uncomfortable. “Maybe. But I don’t want you to get mad or anything.”

Xander hated conversations that started like that. He waited for her to continue and she finally did.

“Why are you always so mean to Angel? That’s just not like you Xander. I mean, I know you like Buffy, and it bothers you that she likes Angel, but that isn’t his fault.”

“He’s a vampire, Willow. A demon. He can’t be trusted.”

“I know what he is. And usually I’d be right with you, but you know Angel’s not like that. He helps us. A lot.”

“He does it so he can be near Buffy. Real noble.”

“Xander!”

“Look, I don’t like him and nothing is going to change my mind. Can we just not talk about Angel? I don’t want to fight with you, Will.”

Willow looked unhappy but she changed the subject. They chatted all the way to her house but there was tension under the surface and they both knew it. They were both relieved to reach Willow’s. Xander made sure she got inside and then he headed for home. He walked along, oblivious to his surroundings, wondering yet again why his life had to suck the way it did. He headed through the park, in no hurry to go home. There was a fountain in the park that was surrounded by benches and it was one of Xander’s thinking spots-it was kind of secluded which probably wasn’t good considering this was Sunnydale but at the moment Xander didn’t care. He headed down the path and was just starting to sit down when he realized he wasn‘t alone. He glanced up and his mouth went dry. His knees turned to jelly and he missed the bench completely, landing on his butt on the cold ground.

“S...spike?”


Xander had a brief second to pray that his death would be quick and then Spike was standing in front of him...holding out a hand? Xander’s mouth dropped open and he stared at Spike, speechless. Something like hurt crossed the pale features and then Spike was stepping back, his expression inscrutable.

“Right. Sorry I offended you by offering to help you up.”

Xander felt guilt followed by shocked disbelief that he would feel badly about hurting a vampire’s feelings. And hello...vampires didn’t have feelings to hurt. Did they?

“Why aren’t you killing me?” Xander winced as once again his mouth took off without consulting his brain.

Spike smiled but there was little humor in it. “I see you’ve been spending time with my grandsire.”

“Your whatsit?”

“Grandsire. Angel sired Dru and she sired me. Grandsire.”

“Oh.” And was he really having a conversation with the evil undead? “Why do you say that Angel sired Drusilla and not Angelus?” Hmm. Apparently he was.

Spike sat down on a bench across from Xander. Xander picked himself off the ground and sat on the bench he’d been aiming for earlier. Spike looked at him for a minute and then answered his question.

“Because no matter what he likes to pretend, Angel is Angelus. He just has a conscience now. The soul doesn’t stop him from being a wanker. Just makes him feel bad when he is.”

Xander couldn’t help but grin at that. Finally, someone who saw Angel the way he did. Still...

“Why aren’t you killing me?”

Spike sighed. “Do you want me to?”

“No! It’s just...you’re a...well, you know.”

“A vampire? Yeah, so?”

Xander looked completely lost and Spike grinned ruefully.

“So, what, you think all vampires are mindless killing machines?”

Xander didn’t say anything but his look clearly said ‘duh’.

“Suppose we’ll leave it at that. Easier for you lot to think that way.”

Xander so didn’t want to go where that thought was leading so he asked a question instead.

“Why are you out here?”

“’S a good spot to think.”

Xander could hardly argue with that. “What are you thinking about?”

Spike was quiet for so long that Xander didn’t think he was going to answer. Finally, though, he did. “Life, I guess.”

“Ok.”

Xander sounded puzzled and Spike gave him a little half smile. Xander chose to ignore the little flip-flop his belly did just then. Must have been something he ate.

“Fate can be a funny thing. Came here to get Dru all fixed up and happy again and instead we run into Angel. Funny how quick you can become second best.” Pain flickered briefly on Spike’s face and then it was gone. “Not that I was ever anything else. Was just easier to pretend otherwise when he wasn‘t around.”

This time Xander heard the pain as well as saw it and something in him shifted. Spike was no longer an undead demon but just a guy whose girl wanted someone else. Xander so knew how that felt. He knew exactly what it felt like to be second best. He was searching for something to say when the first vampire crashed through the underbrush.

Spike was on his feet in seconds, launching himself at the attacking vampires. Xander grabbed the stake from his back pocket and managed to dust one of the vampires. He turned to Spike and saw that he had dispatched the last of the three that had ganged up on him. He started to say something when he saw Spike’s eyes widen.

“Behind you!”

Xander had only turned halfway around when a huge fist caught him squarely across the jaw. He was dimly aware of Spike yelling something else and then his world went black.


Xander woke slowly and realized two things almost simultaneously-he was in a strange bed and he was fairly sure he was naked. He lifted the covers and eeped. Yep, naked. How the hell had he gotten that way? His head ached and things were a little fuzzy. Suddenly everything came rushing back. Spike. He was with Spike and they’d been attacked. He was about to get out of bed to search for his clothes when the door opened.

“Look who’s finally awake.”

“Spike? Where am I?”

“Dru and I have been staying here. This is my room.”

“Why am I naked?”

Spike gave him that little half grin again. “Figured you’d be more comfortable like that. ‘Sides, the bastard managed to hit you a few times before I could stake him. Checked you over to make sure you weren’t hurt too badly.”

Checked him over? Xander blushed three shades of red at the thought. Spike chuckled quietly to himself. His plan was moving along perfectly. Letting the boy find him in the park, having some of his minions attack them. Course the minions had been pretty pissed when they’d realized Spike was really going to kill them but hey...that’s what minions were for. He watched as Xander checked himself for bruises. The boy wasn’t going to find any. Spike hadn’t really let the vampire hit him but that once. A badly injured human was a not-in-the-mood-to-be-shagged human and he didn’t want that. While Xander was preoccupied he reached into the pocket of his duster and broke the vial he’d gotten at the magic shop. He coated his fingers in the oil and then moved to the bed. He leaned over Xander and carefully placed the ice pack he’d brought over the swelling in Xander’s cheek. He let his other hand graze Xander’s arm. He watched as the oil glowed brightly for a second before drying. Perfect.

Spike moved to sit on the bed next to Xander. It had taken him awhile to solidify this stage of the plan. He’d wanted the boy willing-wanted to rub Angel’s nose in the fact that he had given himself freely. Besides-rape was Angelus’ thing not his. He didn’t have any doubts about his own desirability but he also knew that he didn’t have the patience for the kind of slow seduction Xander would require. Leading a perfectly hetero high school male down the path of gayness would take a lot more time than he had to spend on this little project. So he’d found himself a little gem at the magic shop; the potion would help lower the boy’s inhibitions. Sure it was cheating but he was a demon. He looked up to see Xander staring at him and realized he’d been quiet for too long. The boy was a little spooked.

“How’s your head?”

Xander smiled a little. “Ok. What time is it?”

“Don’t know. Early morning. The sun’s up.”

“What?!” Xander started to climb out of bed and then remembered he was naked. He flung himself back under the covers. “Spike, I really have to go. Everyone’s going to be freaking out.”

That was exactly what Spike was counting on. Let them worry and wonder all day about what had happened to Xander.

“I can’t let you go out there. Sun’s up and that means Dru and her minions are around. It’s not safe for you outside this room.”

“You mean I’m stuck here?” Xander saw Spike’s face fall and he kicked himself. Spike went to stand up and Xander grabbed his arm. “I’m sorry, Spike. I didn’t mean it like that.”

They both looked down at Xander’s hand on Spike’s arm. Xander’s hand seemed to burn from the contact and it suddenly felt about 10 degrees hotter in the room. He looked up and his eyes met smoldering blue ones. Slowly, Spike bent his head until his mouth was only inches from Xander’s. Xander shivered and then Spike’s mouth was on his, moving tentatively at first. When Xander didn’t pull away, Spike deepened the kiss. He brought one hand up to tangle in the soft hair at the nape of Xander’s neck. He held the boy still while he ravished that sweet warm mouth.

Xander was drowning and he didn’t care. He kissed Spike back, groaning softly when a cool tongue invaded his mouth and tangled with his. He felt Spike draw back just a little. He barely got his breath back before Spike was kissing him again. He brought his hands up and slid them into Spike’s hair. He moaned low in his throat and the sound shot straight to Spike’s cock. He eased them down until Xander was on his back with Spike above him. He chafed at the layer of blankets and his own clothes that was between him and Xander. He caught the faintest hint of fear in Xander’s eyes, though, and forced himself to slow down. He teased Xander’s lips with his tongue and then let it slide inside Xander’s mouth once more. Their tongues mated for long minutes and then Spike carefully eased himself down on Xander. He let their cocks brush together and was rewarded with a moan from Xander.

“You feel so good, pet. And you taste like heaven.”

Spike’s voice was rough with passion and Xander knew he’d never heard anything sexier in his life. He let his hands drift to the waistband of Spike’s jeans and then tugged at the vampire’s T-shirt. When it was free of the jeans he slid his hands underneath and caressed the smooth skin of Spike’s belly. Spike growled low in his throat.

“Spike? Are you ok? Did I do something wrong?”

“No, pet. Something very nice. Don’t stop. I like your hands on me.”

Spike kissed him again and Xander let his hands wander over Spike’s belly and then around to knead the muscles of his back. Spike sat up for a minute and pulled the T-shirt off and then tossed it aside. He pulled Xander’s blanket down to his waist and then leaned forward again. This time his mouth found a nipple and Xander gasped and arched into the contact. Spike spent long minutes alternating between Xander’s nipples. When he finally pulled back, both were hard and slick with his saliva and Xander was panting softly. Spike raked his eyes over the boy and decided he couldn’t wait anymore. He had to have Xander. Now. He stood and quickly shed his jeans. He climbed back into bed and slid under the covers. This time when he pulled Xander under him there was nothing but flesh on flesh and they both groaned. Spike brought a hand down to fondle Xander’s erection. His cock was hard and slick with pre-come. Spike stroked him gently a few times, gathering the pre-come and using it to slick his fingers. He slid his hand down over Xander’s balls to the tiny hole between Xander’s cheeks. Xander whimpered and Spike leaned up to kiss him.

“Shh, pet. It’s alright. You’ll like this. I promise.”

He took Xander’s mouth again and then eased the tip of his finger inside Xander. He felt Xander tighten painfully around the invading digit before the boy relaxed and let him in. Spike began to flick his tongue in and out of Xander’s mouth while his finger mimicked the movement in Xander’s ass. Xander groaned and pushed into Spike.

“Good, pet?”

“Hmm. Didn’t know it would feel like that.”

Spike smiled at the husky sound of Xander’ voice. The lad was damn sexy when he was aroused. Spike leaned over him and retrieved the lube from the bedside table. He knelt between Xander’s thighs and carefully eased two slick fingers into Xander’s ass. He began stroking Xander’s cock slowly while he prepared the boy for his cock. When Spike felt that Xander was ready for him, he removed his fingers from Xander’s body and quickly slicked his cock.

“I want to be in you now, pet. “ He felt Xander’s body tense and he ran his hands soothingly along the trembling thighs. “Shh, quiet now, luv. ‘M not gonna hurt you. Want you to turn over on your belly now.”

Xander rolled over and Spike slid a pillow under his hips. “Good, pet. Perfect. This’ll be nice and comfortable for you. Won’t have to worry about holding yourself up or anything. Can just lie there and feel.” Spike leaned over Xander and let his cock slide along the cleft of Xander’s ass. Spike brought a hand down and guided himself to the opening of Xander’s body. He pushed in carefully until the head of his cock was inside the snug channel. He let his hands run soothingly over Xander’s back. “Relax and let me in, luv. That’s it. Now push back at me a little.” Spike groaned as he slid inside Xander to the hilt.

Xander moaned raggedly as he felt Spike’s cock slide into him. It didn’t hurt as much as he’d expected it to. He felt almost uncomfortably full, though. He moaned again as Spike began to move, slow easy thrusts that felt better and better the more Xander’s body became used to the invasion. Spike shifted a little and his cock brushed something inside Xander that made his head spin.

“Feels good, yeah? Hitting that spot. Makes you feel all shivery and hot and wanting.”

Xander groaned and thrust his hips back at Spike. He did feel all shivery and maybe a little tingly as well. He moved again and moaned at the sensation. He began to move, tentatively at first and soon he was matching Spike thrust for thrust. Their moans echoed through the tiny room along with the erotic sound of flesh meeting flesh.

“Gonna touch you now, pet. Want you to come. Come for me, Xander.”

His name said with that sexy accent did funny things to Xander’s insides. The cool hand wrapped around his dick did too. Xander closed his eyes and concentrated on the sensations; Spike’s thick cock moving inside him, his hand stroking in time with his thrusts. He came with a ragged moan, his seed covering Spike’s hand and spilling onto the pillow underneath him. Spike felt Xander’s ass clench around him as the boy came. His cock was gripped almost painfully and he let himself spill into Xander, moaning as the boy’s clenching muscles milked him dry.


Xander opened his eyes and stretched luxuriously. He was sore but in a good way. He’d lost track of the number of times that Spike had turned to him with that look; he’d never known a look could be so hot. They’d made love in just about every way imaginable. Xander felt a dopey grin on his face. He finally noticed the empty bed and wondered where Spike had gone. His fuzzy brain registered the fact that it was now dark outside and he sighed. He’d have to go home soon. His friends would be worried. There was an ear splitting crash from somewhere deep in the factory and he jerked upright.

“Not to worry, pet. Just your friends finally showing up.”

Xander’s gaze swung to the door. Spike was leaning negligently in the doorway. He had his jeans on and a long-sleeved red shirt that he’d left unbuttoned. His hair was mussed and he looked devastatingly sexy. Suddenly the tone of Spike’s voice hit him and he frowned.

“Spike? What’s going on?”

“Nothing, pet. Just listening to phase two of my plan. It’s just getting good.”

“Plan? What plan? Spike, what is going on?”

Spike smiled at him and Xander’s belly rolled. This smile was nothing like the ones he’d given Xander during the long day in bed. It was cold and hard and mocking.

“Come with me. I’ll show you.”

Xander dressed quickly and followed Spike. They were on some kind of catwalk just above the main floor of the factory. Xander could see Buffy below as she fought a group of minions. Willow and Giles were farther back, coping with their own attackers.

Xander turned to Spike and his heart froze at the look on his lover’s face. There was a kind of manic glee on the vampire’s face and he laughed when he saw Xander’s stricken look.

“Come on now, pet. Don’t be like that. Was just a bit of fun. But now it’s just about over. Angel’s just on the other side of that door. I can hear him. Another minute or two and he’ll be here and that’ll be the icing on my cake.”

“I don’t understand.” Xander’s voice was shaky but he couldn’t help it. He just knew that whatever Spike said would be bad.

“Well, I can spare you a sec so I’ll explain. I hate Angel. The reasons don’t matter to you so I won’t bore you with them. Needed a way to hurt him and there you were.”

“How could I hurt Angel?”

“Ahh, so young and so in denial. He wants you, pet. And he’s fighting it with everything he has.”

“What the hell are you on? Angel can’t stand me. And I hate him.”

Spike smiled that not nice smile again. “Angel can’t stand the way you make him feel. He needs to be the hero. And heroes always get the girl. Not the girl’s best male friend. Wanting you doesn‘t fit in with the new image he‘s created of himself.”

“Even if that’s true, why this? Why did you...?” Xander couldn’t finish.

“Fuck you?”

Xander flinched and Spike laughed at him. Xander’s stomach did a sickening roll before settling again.

“Because Angel is possessive. No one touches what he considers his. From now on, every time he looks at you he’ll remember. Remember that I had you. He’ll never touch you now; he won’t be able to. You’re lost to him.”

At that moment Angel burst through the door, Drusilla behind him. Both vampires raised their heads and then Angel’s eyes locked with Spike’s. He scented the air and his eyes flashed yellow. He let out a furious growl and began tearing into the minions that Buffy hadn’t managed to dispatch yet. Spike laughed and moved to stand behind Xander. He pressed in close and whispered in the boy’s ear.

“See? He could smell us the minute he walked in the door. My come all over you. Could see you, all rumpled and fresh from my bed. That’s what he’ll remember from now on. It‘s going to burn in his gut like holy water.” He licked lightly at Xander’s ear. “Seems your dad was wrong, pet. You aren’t useless after all. I couldn’t have done this without you.”

He turned and walked away, heading for the stairs. He couldn’t wait to join the fight. At the sight of his retreating back, something broke inside Xander. The wall he used to keep his emotions in check came crashing down; he’d never known he had that much rage and hate and pain inside him. And now the emotions had nowhere to go. He choked back a ragged sob and launched himself at Spike. They went down in a heap but Spike quickly pinned Xander under him.

“Now now, luv. Don’t really have time to shag. ’M missing a good fight.”

He grinned and Xander saw red. He bucked furiously and Spike actually had to work to hold him down. Xander managed to get a knee up and landed a fierce blow to Spike’s balls. Xander scrambled out from under Spike. He managed to grab a hunk of wood from a broken crate before Spike grabbed him again.

“You know something, whelp? You’re really starting to piss me off.”

Xander’s eyes flashed and he brought the makeshift stake down. Spike grabbed his hand and forced the stake around and away from himself. With one brutal shove he slammed the stake into Xander, just under the boy’s ribcage. The forward momentum brought the stake up through Xander’s chest until the tip pierced his heart.

White-hot pain shot through Xander and he gasped. Blood trickled from the corner of his mouth and with a wicked grin Spike bent his head and licked it away.

“You taste like heaven, pet.”

Tears sprang to Xander’s eyes and he sank to his knees. His whole body shuddered with the pain and he fought to stay conscious. Spike let him fall and headed for the stairs. He paused on the top stair, eyes dancing as he watched the battle still being waged below.

“Alright then. Who wants a piece of the Big Bad?”

He took a step forward but stopped as searing pain roared through his chest. He turned to see Xander holding the bloody stake in his hand. His eyes widened in shocked disbelief just before he imploded and his ash fell on the ground at Xander’s feet.


Pandemonium reigned as Xander fell to his knees at the top of the stairs. With their leader gone and their mistress sobbing hysterically in a corner, the minions were at a complete loss. Buffy staked a few before the remaining minions got wise and fled the warehouse. Angel didn’t hesitate; he was across the room and up the stairs in seconds. He was relieved to hear the faint sounds of Xander breathing.

“Xander? It’s Angel. Don’t go to sleep, Xander. You need to stay with me.”

“Angel?”

Sleepy brown eyes opened to peer questioningly at him. Xander coughed and blood spilled from his mouth. There was a widening pool of gore underneath Xander and for the first time in over two hundred years Angel felt sickened at the sight of blood. He swallowed hard and fought back the nausea.

“So cold, Angel.”

Angel reached for Xander but stopped. “I’m afraid to move you, Xander. I don’t want to make things worse.”

Xander managed a small smile. “I don’t think it really matters, do you?”

Angel sat down and very gently pulled Xander to him. He wrapped his arms tightly around the shaking boy.

“Xander? Oh my God! Angel, is he...”

Buffy had made it upstairs, Willow and Giles right behind her. Giles reached for his cell phone and called for an ambulance. Willow began to sob brokenly at the sight of her best friend. She knelt down and took his hand. She tried to speak but she was sobbing too hard to form words.

“Wills, it’s ok. I’m going to be ok. “

Xander tried to be reassuring but it just hurt too damn bad. Angel looked at his pain-wracked face. He could see the effort it was costing Xander to try and comfort his friends. Angel turned to Buffy.

“Buffy, why don’t you and Willow go out and wait for the ambulance?”

She started to protest but seemed to realize what Angel was trying to do and why. She choked back her tears and knelt beside Willow.

“Angel’s right. This place is huge. It’ll be faster if we meet the EMT’s.”

Willow gave Xander’s hand a squeeze and then stood up. Buffy knelt to place a quick kiss to Xander’s cheek. Their eyes met and Buffy began to sob. She stood and grabbed onto Willow and the two girls hurried outside. Giles knelt and placed his hand on Xander’s.

“I’m going to out with them. They shouldn’t be alone.”

“Thanks G-man.”

Giles smiled sadly at the hated nickname and followed the girls out.

“Thanks. They didn’t need to be here. Shouldn’t have to watch...”

“Shh. Don’t try to talk.”

“When has that ever been possible?”

Angel managed a laugh and Xander smiled at him.

“God, Xander, I’m sorry. I wish I could do something.”

“You can’t. We both know that. I just wish it didn’t hurt so much.”

Angel choked back a sob. Xander looked into his eyes and for the first time saw the things Spike had seen. He realized just how expertly he’d been played and his heart broke.

“Geez, Angel, I was so stupid.”

“Don’t say that.”

“Why not? It’s true. I spent all that time fighting with you because I couldn’t admit that I was attracted to you. How did Spike see it when even I didn’t know it was there?” He began to sob. “I’m scared, Angel.”

The sobbing tore Angel in two. “Shh, don’t cry, Xander. Please. You’re breaking my heart.”

Xander managed to get his sobbing under control. He hitched in a breath and winced at the pain that flared in his chest. He looked up at Angel. “Ok. I’m ok now.” He was quiet for a minute. “Do you believe in heaven?”

Angel was startled. Once, a long time ago, he had believed whole-heartedly in the concepts of heaven and hell. Now?

“I think that there are other places out there, other dimensions that are very different to this one. A place where there is no pain, or sickness, or death.”

“Hmm, that sounds nice.”

Xander reached up and stroked his hand slowly over Angel’s face. He smiled when Angel turned his head and kissed his palm. He slid his hand around to the back of Angel’s neck and tugged weakly. With a small smile, Angel bent his head and touched his mouth very lightly to Xander’s.

Angel listened as the quiet thump of Xander’s heart slowed and then stopped. He felt Xander’s hand go limp and slide from around his neck. He pulled back and ran a loving hand over a face that was more peaceful than he’d ever seen it. He pulled Xander tighter to him, buried his face in the boy’s neck, and let the tears come.