Title: Inside Down, Upside Out

Author: Becka

Chapter 11: An End to Solitude

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It was sometime later that Severus woke up. Wondering at his strange surroundings - a bedroom he'd never seen before - he sat up. Or tried to, anyway. Groaning, he sank back into the bed, wondering why he felt so very drained. All he remembered was going to look for...

/Xander!/

A string of memories hit him all at once: finding Lucius and Xander together in bed, the blonde man hurling accusations that were so true they hurt, casting the killing curse, Adava Kedavra, seeing Xander for who and what he truly was.

Overall, Snape felt rather... humbled.

However, it still didn't explain where he was or why he felt so tired. And speaking of Lucius... Snape turned his head to the side and wasn't surprised to find the blonde passed out on the bed next to him.

"You're awake."

Xander stood by the door, hands shyly behind his back. Severus hadn't even heard the door open.

"I... I'm sorry."

Uncomfortably, Xander walked over and sat on the corner of the bed. His voice was deliberately soft. "I'm not angry at you, Severus. This is my life. You hurt me. He saved me. The balance was there. I was just too blind to see it."

Swallowing, Snape asked hesitantly, "Who are you?"

The dark-haired man sighed, running a hand through his shaggy hair. "The Shadow. The Balance. If there are others like me, I don't know about them. I came into this... accidentally."

When the older man didn't say anything, Xander continued, "I'm not a super hero or anything like that. I don't even know what exactly I'm supposed to _do_. I guess... if I had to put it into words, I can make the impossible, possible. I can bend the rules." He snorted, "I can color outside the lines."

"Why?"

"Why what? Why am I the Shadow?"

Severus nodded.

"It was... an accident, really. I didn't know what was happening to me. I got possessed by a hyena-spirit, then by a soldier, and I didn't know what any of it _meant_. I just knew that something had changed. I guess there was one point where I had a choice in the matter... but I made my decision. I became the Shadow the day I lost my eye."

"What..."

"What does it mean? It means that I can see the balance. I can act on it." There was bitterness in the voice. "I can change the world."

"As for what this means for you and me... you won't like it. There is a balance, Sev. I shouldn't have gotten involved with you, but I did. I mean, I'm outside of the laws of balance, but you're not. And so, Lucius came into play. I can't be with you unless I can be with both of you. You... balance... one another. A good man who treated me with contempt. A bad man who treated me with kindness. The Yin and the Yang of my relationship."

"So I guess..." Xander smiled sadly. "I guess this is good-bye."

"I don't think I've ever heard such nonsense in my life."

Both Xander and Snape turned to stare at Lucius who was watching them intently through bright, blue eyes. He continued, "Do you _really_ think that Severus is _that_ much of an idiot to simply let you walk away again? I rather think he'd be honored to have both of us in his bed." Lucius smirked.

Xander burst out laughing. "You definitely know how to spoil the moment, don't you, Lu? Do they teach that at Evil Henchman Academy, or do all of your sort come equipped?"

Still grinning, the blonde answered, "I believe all evil men are tactless. With me, however, it's not a matter of having no tact. When I do it, it's called having _style_."

Even Severus had to laugh at that.

After their mirth died down, there was a moment of silence as the three men regarded one another. "So..." Xander finally said, the question evident in his voice, "Where does that leave us?"

Snape glanced at the dark-haired youth, then at the blonde. Apparently Lucius wanted him to answer.

"I suppose," he said slowly, "It leaves us in this bed, with an empty space between us waiting to be filled."

Eye wide, Xander stared at him, studying him intently. "Do you mean that?"

"Yes," they both answered simultaneously, then glared at each other.

The dark-haired man laughed, slipping into the space between them, letting their arms encircle him. Later he'd deal with Willow, Giles, Dumbledore, Hogwarts, and everyone else. For now... for now, what he had with these men, in this room, was more than enough.

After a while, almost as if realizing what everything that had happened implied, Severus looked at Xander. The wonder in his eyes was tangible. He hugged the dark-haired boy close and whispered, "Does anyone else know what you do?"

Laughing, Xander kissed his now-lover softly and replied, "Of course not, Sev. I can't let people know that. After all, what would the world do if it didn't have me to turn it upside out?"

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fin

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