Disclaimer: In a perfect, ok in my world, I would own all the characters contained herein. I would also have the ability to dimension hop and have a variable time sight. But, this is the really real world, where Joss owns em. There ain't no coming back.

An Unexpected Visitor

Interlude - Lonely Letters

by IceWing (IceWing@one.net)

"That's the last time we go demon hunting when I'm having an evening out!" exclaimed Cordelia as the crew of Angel Investigations entered the lobby of the Hyperion Hotel. "I mean, do you know how hard its going to be to get neon blue demon blood out of this blouse! I do NOT get paid enough for this kind of thing."

"Well, I found these really smelly red berries on this prickly tree down by the river.. And if you smash them up with a good rock, because if the rock is no good then when you smash it down, it will break and you can cut your hand on the shards, but that's not really important is it? No, but as I was saying, if you smash the red berries, and take the paste and smear it all over the stains, don't really matter what the stain was, but it seemed to work really well when I had to crawl under the fences near the stables, so I guess that would be mostly mud and grass stains."

Cordelia cut Fred off by taking her gently by the arm and asking her if she would like to help get this particular stain out. As the two exited the lobby, the sounds of Fred saying she would, but her good rock was still in Pylea, fading into silence.

"Well, at least we don't have to hear that endless prattle anymore," said Wesley.

"English, that's just cold. Girls still adjusting to being back in the real world after five years in a cave."

"I was referring to Cordelia, actually. If I had to hear one more time how we aren't doing enough to keep 'icky' things off her outfits, I would actually consider driving a steel rod through my eardrums."

Gunn paused before nodding and agreeing with the former Watcher. Together the two wandered to the back room in order to clean and sharpen all the weapons used in the evening's battle before safely storing them away for the next fight.

As the rest of the group had wandered off, Angel stood there for a moment. He wondered sometimes if the SunnyDale gang broke apart as fast as his crew did after a night of hunting. The last time he had been up to see Buffy, it had seemed to him that the group was on the verge of meltdown. Something which would have rather profound consequences on all involved.

His train of thought was abruptly derailed as the phone in the office began to ring. He moved to answer it, but before he could get more than a couple of steps, somebody else picked it up. "Angel Investigations. We help the helpless," he heard a voice, a male voice that was neither Gunn nor Wesley. Nor, he thought sadly, Doyle. "That's ok," said the voice after a second or two pause. "You have a good evening too."

As the phone clicked back onto the receiver, Angel spun around the doorway, ready to confront whatever was lurking in the office.

Except, he wasn't prepared to face the young man who was sitting behind his desk.


"Angel. And now that we have re-established that we know each other.."

The souled vampire stood there for a moment before stepping in from the doorway. "What are you. Is everything. Is Buffy Ok?"

"One complete sentence out of three. That's not cryptic you know. Its just poor grammar." Xander replied, forcing Angel to smile just a bit. "And, if you don't mind, could you please shut the door." Angel did so, and even as the door was swinging closed, he noticed the blinds were already drawn. "Now, to answer your questions in reverse order. Buffy is fine, or at least as fine as she has been since she rejoined the ranks of the living. There's nothing wrong in SunnyDale, and I'm here in town as a favor to a friend." Xander handed Angel a couple of pieces of paper from the desk. "By the way, you had a couple of calls while you were gone..."

Angel took the message slips and set them down without so much as a look. "So, why stop here. Cordy just went upstairs with Fred. I could page her if you want to talk to her."

"Actually, and I can't believe that I'm actually saying this, but I stopped by to talk to you."

"Do I want to know why?" inquired Angel.

"I can't tell you everything, but basically, I was wondering if you could by any chance get me copies of some of the books you have."

Angel thought about this for a second. "That's kind of a weird request, Xander. I can't, no, I won't give you anything without at least knowing some of reason for the request."

Now it was Xander's turn to hesitate. "Ok, I can't tell you the whole story. But the gist of it is this. For the last couple of years, the gang has been slowly pushing me out, trying to get me first to the sidelines, and then off the field altogether. They keep acting like its for my own good, or act like they're not doing it at all. And, I'm getting to the point where if they don't want me to fight beside them, then I'll fight on my own."

"Are you sure that's such a good idea? I mean, they're just worried about you. You're not exactly the most capable fighter around."

Xander sighed. "Look, Angel. I can talk till I'm blue in the face, but you won't believe me. So how about I show you. You got a training area around here?"

Angel indicated that there was one, but he didn't think this was a good idea.

"You want to talk about not good ideas. How about when I faced off with Angelus. Compared to that you shouldn't be concerned about a simple sparring match. After all, I won't even have a stake on me when we're fighting, so what's the worry."

Angel could only shake his head as he lead the way down to the basement.

Xander stretched for a moment, while Angel shed his duster. Angel asked him again if he was sure he wanted to do this.

The young man said yes, and suggested that they start bare handed first and then if Angel wanted to they could try armed later on. The two of them stepped onto the padded mat and looked at each other.

Angel watched Xander carefully. The young man seemed completely calm and collected, even though the souled vampire had warned him that this would be full contact, although he was going to try his best not to seriously hurt Xander. He also noticed that Xander was moving with far more fluidity than he possessed the last time the two had crossed paths. The young man nodded, almost imperceptibly. Angel returned the gesture and moved forward to attack first.

The two danced a ballet of combat, arms and legs lashing out at each other with moves that, in the heat of battle would have been deadly had they landed full force. The action moved back and forth, as each tested the other's guard for openings or weakness. Before either knew it, fifteen minutes had passed with neither gaining a clear upper hand.

Angel broke the engagement, pulling back to the edge of the mat before leaning forward slightly to catch his second wind. "Damn Xander, you've gotten a hell of a lot better. You've proven that you're not the klutz you used to be. So, I don't feel that I'm giving you a loaded gun to put to your head, but before I agree to anything, I want your word that if you come across something you can't handle, you'll call for backup, if not from Buffy, and like you said earlier, I can't believe I'm saying this, but from me. For all of our differences, we are on the same side."

"Done." Xander fished around in his pocket for a moment before giving Angel the piece of paper which he retrieved. "I'm going to be moving out of my apartment pretty soon. Here's the address of the place I'm going to be moving into, as well as my home number and my cell phone. If you need anything, give me a call. The only catch is that I would really appreciate it if you didn't give that out to anyone without asking me first. And that goes about tenfold for the rest of the SunnyDale gang." Xander looked Angel in the eye and held the gaze until the vampire agreed to the terms.

Once he had agreed, Angel looked down at the paper. "Crawford Street? You're moving in there?"

Xander grinned. "Yep. Plenty of room, although it needs a lot of work. Seems like the last few years, the city had a lot of problems with, according to the police reports, wild animal attacks in the area and reports of 'really ugly squatters' occupying the building. So I managed to pick it up for a steal when the city unloaded it. I've been making really good money in construction, and I had some money squirrel away that I picked up from a couple of nocturnal residents of SunnyDale who no longer had any need of it, so low and behold, I am now the proud owner of a real fixer upper.

Angel just shook his head. "I guess I never thought about who the real owner was, but at least somebody will be able to make it home." Putting the paper away, Angel told Xander that he would get some books shipped to him in about a week, and would keep an eye out for anything he thought would be useful.

From his back pocket, Xander pulled out another piece of paper, this one a cashier's check, made out to Angel Investigations in the amount of four thousand dollars and handed it to Angel with the explanation that he knew the stuff wasn't cheap, and if he needed more, just to let him know. After all, he said laughingly, since he had already snagged a house from under him, there was no reason why he shouldn't pay for the books he would be getting.

Angel laughed, then asked if there was anything he could do for Xander.

"Actually, if you don't mind, I wouldn't mind getting in a little bit of weapon practice, assuming you don't have anywhere else to be. I haven't had a lot of chances to practice against anybody outside of my dojo and I'm kinda curious how I hold up."

Angel walked over to the weapons rack and asked if he had any preferences.

"I'd say staves, but don't want to accidentally dust you."

Xander barely managed to catch the staff as Angel tossed it to him. "High impact plastic. No chance of that." And with that, Angel moved to attack.

The sound of the staves impacting filled the room as the two went at it again. Angel's superior strength versus Xander's agility and unconventionality provided a battle which was as dangerous as it was beautiful. Back and forth they moved, attacking, defending, lunging and whirling, each of them getting several solid blows in against the other with neither getting any kind of decisive shot.

That changed when Xander went to block and overhand strike from Angel. The force of the impact generated a loud SNAP and Xander found himself facing the now grinning vampire with two halves of a quarterstaff instead of a single six foot length.

The grin was quickly wiped from Angel's face as Xander's smirk matched his own and he moved to attack with the pair of sticks. It was all the dark avenger could do to block most of the strikes, which were coming in a flurry of motion far faster than the staff had allowed intact.

After pummelling Angel for a couple of seconds, Xander lashed out with the right hand stick, rapping Angel across the hand hard with it. Then, before he could recover Xander brought the other section across and knocked Angel's intact staff across the room. Laughter shone in his eyes as he brought the first jagged segment back towards Angel's torso, where it stopped, gently poking against the vampire's shirt directly over his heart. "Look like I win," he said with a grin.

"Drop your weapons and step back!" yelled a british voice from behind the two combatants.

"And don't be tryin anything, cause you've got a couple of crossbows pointed at you."

Surprised, Xander tossed the two halves of the broken staff to the side as Angel stepped back to show he was safe.

"Its ok guys, nothing wrong."

"We heard fighting down here and thought we'd check it out."

"Damn good thing too, cuz it looks like you were getting your ass handing to you. This guy some kind of demon or something?" asked Gunn.

"Hey!" exclaimed Xander as he spun around. "Do I look like a demon to.." He cut off in mid sentence as he realized that the english voice had been Wesley.

"Xander? What are you doing here? And more importantly, why are you fighting Angel?"

"You two know each other?" asked Gunn, trying to figure out who this guy was.

Angel stepped forward and told them that Xander was in town on an errand and stopped by to say hi. And they had decided to spar for a couple of minutes to see how Xander's fighting ability had progressed since they last saw each other.

"Are you going to see Cordelia?" asked Wesley.

Xander responded that he was actually in town on a mission kind of thing and would actually prefer that they didn't tell anybody he was here.

After looking to Angel, who nodded, both Gunn and Wesley hesitently agreed that they wouldn't say anything to Cordy about him being there.

Xander looked down at his watch. "Crap, I have something I'm supposed to pick up before eight. Wesley, its good to see you again. I wish I could stay longer, but I wasn't really expecting to see you." He extended his hand and shook that of the Englishman, before shaking Gunn's hand and saying it was nice to met him.

"You guys keep safe, ok?" he said as he extended his hand to Angel, who took it. Then, with a grin, he asked. "There a back way out of this place?"

Angel pointed the way and with that, Xander was gone.

"What was that all about?" asked Gunn.

"Just somebody trying to do whats right, just like us." responded Angel as the trio headed up to the lobby.

Hours passed before Angel realized that not once had Xander called him Deadboy.

** ** ** ** ** **

Xander returned to the counter of the underground occult bookstore, for the last of his packages and his change. "Like I was saying, I'm always on the lookout for good reference books. Demons, magic, artifacts or prophecies, doesn't matter."

"Yes, yes. And you don't mind electronic versions either. I have it all in your file and will call you when anything interesting comes to my attention."

"Cool. Hey.. I don't have to pick my friend up till late morning tomorrow. There anyplace around here were I could get something to eat?"

The mousey looking guy behind the counter nodded and gave him directions to a place around the corner. "It's a little weird at first, but it got a no conflict spell on it, and you might be able to make some useful contacts there. "

Xander thanked him and headed out to the car to put the package in the trunk with the rest, then walked the two blocks to the bar the bookseller had recommended. "Caritas," he said as he read the sign. "Well, its got a kinda cool name at least." And with that, he walked in the door.


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