Fair Exchange

Summary: An unexpected visitor makes a business proposition to Wesley.

Disclaimer: None of these characters are mine, as they remain the property of their owners/creators. . .I just saw a chance to kill two birds with one stone.

Rating: PG, for themes.

Time Frame: A few days after "She", and an indeterminate amount of time after "Doomed."

Archiving: Please do, but e-mail me at eilandesq@aol.com because I'm interested in where stuff I write ends up, and I'll want to see what else you've got there.


Wesley looked at the report he had downloaded from the occult website and frowned. * The recent demonic activity in these areas seems to be inordinately heavy. . .but what does it mean? * His train of thought was interrupted by a knock at the door. He raised an eyebrow; surely, Angel or Cordelia would call him if they needed him, and he was not expecting any visitors. He went to the door and opened it, blinking in surprise at the identity of his visitor. He took a moment, then commented, "Well. . .Mr. Harris. . .this is a surprise, to say the least." He remembered his manners and invited, "Come in."

Xander walked in and sat down in the chair that Wesley indicated. Wesley sat down and both men were silent for almost a minute before Wesley commented, "One of us should speak before decomposition starts to set in, Mr. Harris."

Xander nodded and replied, "Angel has been keeping Giles posted on what he and Cordy have been up to. . .including the fact that you showed up recently. . .Mr. Rogue Demon Hunter. . .glad to hear you're not working for those stuffy bastards on the Council any more."

Wesley frowned and replied, "It's not as if they gave me much choice in the matter. . .still, I find myself regretting my termination less and less as time goes on. . .forgive my bluntness, Mr. Harris. . .but I can't help but wonder why you're here. . .if you think that I'm pursuing Cordelia, you can rest assured: she decided a long time back that we're not compatible."

Xander shrugged and responded, "That's not why I'm here. . .if Cordelia wanted you, that's her business and nobody else's. . .I've got my hands full with a certain ex-demon right now." He frowned, then continued, "I heard that you were hanging out with Cordelia and Angel with Doyle gone. . .and I thought that it might be good if we had a talk. . .I think we can help each other."

Wesley raised an eyebrow and replied, "Really? I'm not sure what you could be talking about, Mr. Harris. . .I seem to have settled down well here, and I seem to recall that you were only to glad to see me gone from Sunnydale."

Xander sighed and responded, "Look, Wesley-and will you call me Xander, for God's sake. . .it sounds like you're talking to my father-I know that we've gotten along only slightly better than. . .well, than I've gotten along with Dead Boy over the years. But from what I hear, you've settled into a permanent position here. . .and I see problems arising unless you get some help."

Wesley bristled and replied, "I'm not sure what you mean, Xander. . .I've been doing just fine here; why, just a couple of weeks back, I saved Cordelia from a very nasty demon with a well-placed pistol shot."

Xander nodded and responded earnestly, "Yeah, I heard about that. . .thank you, by the way." Wesley was surprised at the genuine tone of Xander's comment, and listened carefully as he continued, "You're a good shot, no question about it, and I have to admit, whatever caused you to act like you did when you faced up with Balthazar, you've gotten over it. . .you've got a spine." He frowned, apparently searching for the right words, then continued, "Wesley. . .I hate to say this, but right now you can't punch your way out of a paper bag. Oh, you've gotten better-Angel gave a full report of what you've been up to to Giles-and I bet you could take out Willow in a one on one cage match. . .but you're hanging out with Dead Boy. Vampires and seriously nasty demons are the main things he fights. . .and guns and crossbows don't necessarily cut it against them. If you don't improve a lot, real fast, you're going to buy the farm. . .and maybe Cordelia buys it with you. . .I'd like to help."

Wesley frowned and replied, "If you're saying that my hand to hand skills are lacking. . .well, perhaps you have a point; however, I don't see why I need to come to you, Xander. Angel is quite adept in combat. . .I don't see why I couldn't go to him for any needed instruction."

Xander nodded and responded, "That might seem O.K. on the surface, but Angel's whole style of combat is tied up with his vampiric strength and speed. . .it's not something he can pass on that easily to us mere mortals. He makes a great sparring partner for Buffy. . .or Faith, before she went bad. . .but one of us. . .we just get a lot of bruises and not much benefit. Now, me, on the other hand. . .I'm about your size and strength. . .we have to deal with the same problems in a fight with a vampire or other nasties. . .I think it would work out well for both of us."

Wesley noted Xander's phrasing and smiled before replying, "This isn't just for me, is it, Xander?"

Xander frowned, staring intensely at the former Watcher before responding, "No, it isn't." He stood up and paced for a few seconds before continuing, "Those military skills I picked up from Ethan Rayne's nasty Halloween prank. . .they stayed pretty sharp while I lived in Sunnydale and was having to run across vampires on a regular basis. I went away this last summer. . .had to work out some things. . .when I came back, I had slowed down quite a bit, and there wasn't much going on to keep me sharp. . .things have just been slower this year, and a few months back, I nearly got killed by. . ." He shuddered, and Wesley waited for him to continue. Xander shuddered again, and continued, "Never mind who. . .let's just say that I was deeply embarrassed and leave it at that. I need to get back into training. . .Buffy and the others could need me in tip top condition at any time, and with Oz gone I don't have anyone to train with. . .Giles is too damned good, and Buffy nearly broke a couple of my ribs the last time I tried to spar with her. You're actually the best candidate I can think of. . .plus you've had all of that classical Watcher's training. . .you could teach me some moves I haven't seen yet, and I think I can get you up to the point where you can use them effectively. . .what do you think?"

Wesley met Xander's eyes, and saw the determination there: the young man was determined not to let his friends down: he recognized the emotion, as he was all too familiar with it. After a moment, he nodded, and asked, "So how do we do this?"

Xander smiled, pleased that he had convinced Wesley and that he had found a solution to the problem that had been gnawing at him ever since that embarrassing incident with Harmony. He nodded and suggested, "We can do alternate weekends. . .train here on one Saturday, then in the old mansion that Angel used to live in on the next. We can always cancel if an emergency comes up. . .anyway, let's keep this to ourselves. . .I don't want to deal with the grief from Buffy and Willow if they find out what I'm up to."

Wesley nodded and replied, "Nor do I want Angel and Cordelia to hear about what I am up to." Both men laughed: their situations, at their root, were similar. They shook hands, and both relaxed visibly: this plan would be a fair exchange. . .they would each benefit from the situation. . .assuming that no one found out about it; after all, they had their pride.

After a few minutes, Xander nodded and commented, "Well. . .I should go now." He looked over at Wesley and asked, "Next Saturday, here?"

Wesley nodded and replied, "I'll be here." Xander smiled and left the apartment, closing the door behind him. The former Watcher looked at the door and frowned: his life had just gotten more complicated. . .but, perhaps, it would lead to the redemption that he so desperately wanted. He shook his head and went back to reading the report on demonic activity; for now, this would have to do.

As always, comments are welcomed and desired