Healing Together TITLE: Healing Together
AUTHOR: Kylia (kylia_bug@yahoo.com)
DISCLAIMER: Nobody belongs to me, unfortunately. They belong to Joss & Mutant Enemy, and a few other people I don't know.
RATING: NC-17 - eventually
SPOILERS: BtVS Season 4; AtS Season 1; To Shanshu in LA
CATEGORY: Angel/Xander; Willow/Spike
SUMMARY: Willow, Spike & Xander go to LA to help Angel after the events in the season finale'.
DISTRIBUTION: Fire & Ice Fic, DBX, if they want it, anyone else, ask, and you shall receive
AUTHOR'S NOTES: Just so you know, Angel's soul was anchored during the soul restoration in "Becoming 2". Why? Because I say so. Giggle. Do to this fact, we'll probably have to bypass the events in "Eternity". I have nothing against Angelus I adore him actually, but he just wasn't wanting to cooperate with this fic. Maybe next time.
AUTHOR'S NOTES 2: I know a lot of people don't like Willow, but well I'm not one of them. :) I'm a W/S shipper, and that's not going to change any time soon. lol!
DEDICATION: To anyone who is brave enough to read my first attempt at A/X :).
**********

Willow stood up and headed for the door. She stopped when Giles called her name.

"Willow? I was wondering could you maybe not mention this trip to Buffy?"

Willow turned around. She frowned slightly, but nodded. She could understand how Buffy might react if she knew where she was going and why.

After she had left Giles she didn't waste any time. She practically ran over to Xander's house. Knocking once, she let herself into the house and made her way down into the basement.

"Xan? You here?" She called.

"Where else would I be?" He asked crossly. He wasn't really upset with her, just his life in general.

Willow entered what one could laughingly call Xander's living room. Xander was sitting on the couch, attempting to look bored, but Willow had known him for too long to believe that was the cause of his attitude.

"Where's Spike?" She asked, hoping to draw his attention away from whatever he was brooding about.

"Shower." He motioned to one side of the room.

Willow nodded as she walked over to the couch and pulled her old friend to his feet. "Come on, get packed. We're taking a little trip."

"What?" Xander asked, slightly confused. "Where? And why do I have to go?"

"LA There's been a bit of an accident. Delia's in the hospital, or she was." Willow told him, carefully to leave out the explosion.

Xander looked up sharply. "What happened? Is she okay?" Xander hesitating, realizing what he almost said.

Willow smiled softly at him. He wasn't fooling anyone. Okay, well maybe he was fooling everyone, but then, she wasn't everyone. "Yeah, everyone's fine, but they need some help, so we're going to go and give it to them."

"Who needs help?" Spike asked as he came down the stairs, wearing nothing but his jeans, only partially buttoned.

Willow picked up one of his black T-shirts which we're strung over the couch, and tossed it to him. "Get dressed. You're driving."

Spike raised his scarred eyebrow. Willow rolled her eyes. "There was an accident. Angel's building was destroyed. They need some help. Apparently Wesley and Cordelia were hospitalized."

"Wesley and Cordelia? But Angel Deadboy he's okay?" Xander asked nervously.

Spike smirked as he threw his shirt on. "I'm sure Peaches is fine. He's thick skinned." He turned to the redhead. "And why exactly am I going on this little adventure?"

Willow grinned at the vampire. "You're driving." She smiled sweetly in that way that infuriated him.

He growled. "Fine. But I am Not staying with the pouf once we get there!"

"I'm sure will work something out." She grinned suggestively at her lover before turning back to Xander, who hadn't moved since Willow had pulled him off of the couch. "Get packed. We'll leave as soon as the sun sets."

Xander was frozen in place. He shook his head. "No, You guys go on. I'll stay here."

"Nonsense. You're going." She told him soundly, her resolve face firmly in place.

"Why?" He asked quietly, not really wanting to have this conversation with Spike a few feet away.

Willow clasped a hand on his arm. "Because, you're needed." She told him simply.

Xander looked up into her green eyes and nodded, accepting that for once, that might have been true, but even if it wasn't, it was nice to hear. He walked over to his dresser and started to pull out some clothes.

Willow turned towards spike, who was pulling on his boots, and winked. Spike had to hold back a chuckle, at what he knew was another one of Willow's attempts to fix Xander's strained relationship with the brooding vampire.

****

Cordelia hung up the phone and turned to Wesley. "She's on her way."

"Willow? Is she coming by herself?" The former watcher asked.

Cordelia snorted. "Spike let her come here, by herself for who knows how long? Not likely." She smiled, imagining all the bickering Willow was going to be subjected to on the two-hour drive.

"So, Have you told Angel Spike's coming? I imagine he'll have to stay with him at his new place."

Cordelia shook her head. "No, he doesn't have enough room. He's only got one bedroom, and I don't think he really wants to share a bed with the bleached wonder. Besides, I have room. He can stay with Willow in my spare bedroom."

Wesley nodded and turned towards the kitchen table. He picked up the bag and turned back to Cordelia. "Well, I'd better go. I'll drop off his dinner, and let him know their coming."

Cordelia sighed as she flopped down on her couch. She hoped she had done the right thing in calling Willow. Angel hadn't wanted her to. Well, in all honesty, it was more so that he hadn't wanted to call himself. Ever since he had come back from Sunnydale after that Faith fiasco, he'd been acting strange. Not in general, just whenever someone mentioned his trip. She knew something had happened, but he wouldn't talk about it, and she got the impression whatever it was had less to do with the blonde Slayer and her commando boy toy, and more to do with something else entirely. She just wished she knew what it was.

Cordelia smiled as she saw a can of coke floating over to her. "Thanks, Dennis." She leaned back into the couch. "Maybe Willow can help me figure out what's bothering him." She spoke softly, closing her eyes. She needed a few hours of sleep before her guests arrived, and she was sure that once Angel knew they were coming, he'd be over as well.

****

Cordelia opened the door with a smile. You're here. And you brought Xander? She asked quizzically.


Good to see you too, Cor. Xander joked half-heartedly as he entered her apartment.


He really didn't want to be there, The entire drive up there had given him a lot of time to think, and the more he thought about it, the more he realized that coming to Los Angeles was a very bad idea. And he had this sinking feeling that both Willow and Spike knew exactly why it was a bad idea.


We thought you could use the extra space. Willow told her friend as she entered the apartment and looked pointedly at Cordelia, who was confused for a moment until she realized that Spike was still standing out in the hall.


You're not gonna go all Grr on me are you? She asked.


Spike snarled under his non-existent breath.


He'll behave. Willow assured her friend.


Okay, come in, then.


Spike sauntered in and took a look around. Where's the watcher?


*Wesley*, She emphasized his name, went to our new office. Don't worry, he'll be back. S he smiled sweetly.


Spike snorted as he fished inside his duster pockets for a cigarette. When he pulled one out and began to light it, a hand reached out and plucked it from his lips. What the


Not in here you don't, mister! Cordelia pointed towards the balcony.


Spike groaned as he snatched the cigarette back and headed towards the sliding glass door, which led outside.


Cordelia turned to Willow. I'll show you to your room.


Willow followed Cordelia down a short hall to the spare bedroom, leaving Xander alone in the livingroom, which was where he was when there was a knock at the door.


Xander, being the only person left in the living room, opened it, and froze at the sight of the person on the other side.


He gulped.


Angel was the epitome of calm.


Xander smiled sheepishly looking down at his feet, feeling incredibly nervous all of a sudden.


Hi. You came with Willow and Spike? Angel asked, latching on to any form of conversation he could muster.


Xander's eyes darted up to look at Angel and for a split second, he was lost there, frozen in a single moment of time. But then he blinked and the moment was lost.

Xander stepped aside, allowing Angel entrance into the apartment. He kept his eyes lowed to the ground, or a point on the wall, the furniture, anywhere but on the vampire standing before him.


So, I heard about the explosion is everything He trailed off and then looked at the vampire once more. Are you okay? He asked softly. So softly, if not for Angel's vampire hearing, he wouldn't have heard him.

But he did, and his dead heard skipped a non-existent beat. Yeah, I'm fine. He looked around the room, suddenly aware that the two were alone. I wasn't expecting to see you here. He said as casually as he could manage.


Had Xander's back not been facing the vampire, Angel would have seen the hurt expression cross his face.


Yeah, well, Will insisted I come. He told Angel, a little more harshly than intended.


And just as Angel missed the hurt look to pass across Xander's face, Xander missed the flash of pain in Angel's eyes at his harsh words.


Xander turned to face the vampire. I'm sorry. I don't know why I'm here. Willow insisted, and I didn't really argue with her I just


You just what? Angel prodded, both hoping and dreading the next words to come out of Xander's mouth.


After Thanksgiving I I've been thinking and I Xander trailed off, not sure what to say.


Angel asked as he placed a hand on Xander's shoulder, silently pleading with the mortal boy to tell him what he wanted to here.


Xander looked up and their eyes locked. Xander got lost in the vampires chocolate brown orbs, trying to decipher what he saw in them, hoping the next words out of his mouth wouldn't be his undoing.


It was at this inopportune moment that Cordelia came out of the bedroom.


Angel! You're here!


Xander and Angel jumped apart at the intrusion. The spell broken, for the moment. Xander wasn't sure if he should be disappointed or relieved.


Xander flopped on to the couch, hoping to avoid any further questions from either the vampire or his ex-girlfriend. Before any could be asked, a familiar British accent could be heard from the balcony.


Bloody Hell, woman! What did you do with my other pack of smokes? Spike asked as he entered the apartment through the sliding glass door.


Willow grinned and fished the unopened back out of her own jacket and tossed it to him. Spike grinned back. Thanks, luv.

This small exchange seemed to break some of the tension in the room, as Spike turned to his Sire. So, Peaches, heard you had some trouble. How come I miss all the fun?


*****

Cordelia smiled at her boss, seemingly oblivious to the awkward silence, which had begun to permeate the room. She turned to Xander, who was still slumped against the couch. He looked tired. She frowned as she realized she had nowhere for him to sleep.


You'll have to stay with brood boy. Cordelia told him, hoping Xander didn 't make a big deal about it.


Xander's head shot up.


Maybe Spike can stay with me, so Xander could here? Angel asked, knowing that Xander didn't want to be anywhere near him. Whatever the boy had been about to tell him wasn't what he wanted to hear, that much was certain.


Not bloody likely! Spike snarled, although he wasn't really angry. I stay with Red.


Xander turned his gaze away from Cordelia and nodded sadly.


Cordelia smiled broadly. She turned back to Angel. See? Problem solved. Although I do suggest a trip to the store. I don't think Xander's livin' off of O positive these days.


Xander smiled slightly, not even questioning why the mere mention of a liquid diet wasn't repulsive. He stood up and turned to Spike. Give me the keys and I'll run to the store.


Spike raised an eyebrow. In my car?


Xander grinned in away that could only be described as Xanderish. It's either that or we repeat that fiasco from last week.


Spike scowled at the memory of being thrown out of the supermarket after a near violent altercation with the store's manager. That wasn't my fault. The chit insulted me Duster. Spike exclaimed indignantly.


Willow laughed at the wounded expression her lover was sporting.


I'll take you. Angel spoke calmly, his face an expressionless mask.


Xander turned to look at him. You sure?


Angel's eyes locked with Xander's. Let's go. He turned and walked out of the room.


Xander followed him without another word, leaving the blonde vampire and two mortal women alone.


Was it something I said? Spike smirked after the two had disappeared.


Willow tried not to laugh.


Cordelia, not completely understanding the humor of the situation waved Spike's concern away. No. He's been moody lately. Well, moodier than usual. Ever since She paused trying to remember the first time she noticed the change. Ever since he got back from Sunnydale that last time. She turned to Willow. You don't think this is about Buffy do you? I thought he was over her.


I'm sure its nothing. Willow assured her friend. She wasn't entirely sure what Angel's problem was, but she had a good idea.


Cordelia nodded. Okay, I have to go get ready. I have a thing tonight.


A thing? Willow asked curiously.


Cordelia sighed dramatically. Yeah. We're going out to some club


I think they call it a date. Spike supplied and then chuckled at the horrified expression, which had settled over Cordelia's features.


It is *not* a date. She hissed emphatically before disappearing through the door to her bedroom.


Spike stared after her for a moment before turning to Willow. And you said he wasn't insane? Care to change that theory?


Willow walked into his arms and laughed softly. Xander She leaned against his chest.


And Peaches Spike whispered.


I was right, wasn't I? She asked, tilting her head up slightly.


Yes, luv, I believe you were. He kissed her lips tenderly, all thoughts of his Sire and the mortal boy leaving his thoughts.


****

Xander sat in the passenger side of the car in silence. It seemed to be deafening, like this heavy weight that was drowning out all else. Angel kept his eyes firmly on the road ahead of him, and although his face was expressionless, Xander could swear he was angry. About what, the mortal couldn't figure out. Unless it was just the idea of having to put up with him for who knew how long.

As they were stopped at a light, Xander had the sudden urge to jump out of the car. He wanted to get far away from Angel. He didn't know how he was going to stay in such close quarters with the vampire. How was he supposed to deal the object of so many of his thoughts without making a complete fool out of himself? It was quite obvious Angel hated him as much as he always had. Why he had allowed himself to dwell on the simple conversation the two had had back in Sunnydale in a few weeks ago, he didn't know. It meant nothing. Angel probably didn't even remember the conversation, or if he did, it was just another irritating event in his latest trip to the Hellmouth.


Xander had heard about Angel's run in with Riley, and had had to suppress a smile at the thought of what Angel could have done to Riley, had he wanted to. Of course he couldn't tell Buffy he would have paid good money to see that confrontation. She wouldn't have understood. Hell, he didn't even understand it himself. Although, these days he understood very little, especially where he himself was concerned.

His life had seemed to make less and less sense as time went on. Although he had gotten quite good at suppressing any detailed thought on the subject. All that had changed in November, when *He* came back. He, being the vampire he was seated next to now.

Angel had come back to Sunnydale after some friend of his had had some Buffy related vision. He had wanted to make sure she was all right. Xander wasn't sure why the idea that Angel had come running back to Sunnydale for the Slayer had bothered him so much. At the time it had seemed almost natural, and later he had written it off as a reaction to the bizarre case of syphilis he had contracted.

It wasn't until alter, when he had replayed that entire evening over in his mind had he realized that the wounded and sick feeling he got in the pit of his stomach at Angel reaction to his accusation that he was evil, didn't have anything to do with his illness. He had hated the momentary wounded look in Angel's dark eyes. But then the vampire had seemed to be more irritated than anything. Not that Xander could blame him for his irritation.

Once his fever had broken, and he had returned to his normally witty self, Xander couldn't help the thoughts that seemed to linger in his head. He had made the accusation without really thinking. His mouth had seemed to move of its own accord. And the irony was that he didn't really think that was the case. He hadn't believed that Angel was evil. He hadn't been afraid for his life. He had known that his soul had been restored permanently two years previous when Willow had risked her life to complete the ritual. Although Xander wasn't entirely certain who knew that. Willow had told him, privately. Xander knew that Buffy and Giles didn't know, and it was unlikely that Angel himself had known if Buffy had been kept in the dark.

Now that Xander was spending so much time musing about Angel, he stopped to think why it was he himself hadn't told the vampire's soul was his, completely. Some would most likely believe that it was jealousy. That he didn't want Angel and Buffy to get back together. Thinking over it now, as he sat in this car, in silence, with the vampire in question, Xander couldn' t disagree with that theory. However it wasn't Angel he had wanted to keep away from Buffy.

He chanced a look at the vampire. He was watching the road ahead of them as they turned down a side street and pulled into a parking lot. His face was the ever-expressionless mask. His eyes dark as they concentrated on driving, or thought about something Xander wouldn't even hazard a guess at.

Xander shook his head slightly and turned his own gaze back to the outside world as the car came to a stop. Nope it wasn't his desire for Buffy, which kept him from sharing his secret. But maybe it was time he told him the truth. Maybe if he gave Angel what he wanted, he wouldn't wonder why he hadn't told him before.


****

Angel scowled as he watched the mortal youth walk into the supermarket. What the Hell was wrong with him? He knew he had been short with Xander earlier, and the silence of the drive had only served to make things worse. He wasn't really irritated with the boy. He had no right to be. But watching Xander and his Childe's obviously familiar banter has struck a chord within the older vampire. Something he wasn't even sure he wanted to recognize much less acknowledge. He felt something inside him rail at the closeness between Spike and Xander.

Angel knew there was nothing romantic between the two. Spike was completely in love with Willow. And besides, why should he care if they were involved? Why indeed. The very idea that Xander had feelings for Spike sent a wave of a long repressed emotion through him. Jealousy. Jealousy and something else. Hope.


If Spike, why not him?

Although he knew he was thinking ridiculous thoughts. It made no difference whether Xander was open to a relationship with another man, or a vampire. The fact was that Xander's feelings for Angel bordered on hate. Despite the fact that they had seemed to clear some of the air just a few weeks ago. Maybe that whole visit to Sunnydale was nothing but a bad dream. Maybe Angel hadn't gone running to Sunnydale to apologize for something he had no business apologizing for. Maybe he hadn't run into Xander on the street. Maybe they hadn't ended up in some coffee shop talking about everything and nothing for two hours. Maybe Angel hadn't left that night feeling better than he had in months. Maybe it was a terrible, terrible dream. Because if it was real, and Xander didn't really mean some of the things he had said that night, then maybe he was still in Hell.

That was the only explanation for the forgiveness Xander had offered him that night, only to be followed by this trip to Los Angeles. A trip Xander obviously hadn't wanted to make. He was here because Willow had made him come. Not because he wanted to be here. Not because he cared. Yep, this was Hell.

Angel ran a hand through his hair as he climbed out of the car. He was not going to sit in his car, brooding. No, he had plenty of time for that later. Who knew how long Xander would be staying with him?

That decided, Angel walked the short distance to the store, and braced himself to slip into the cryptic guy' routine he had been accused of so long ago. Surely it was better for everyone to think he was a brooding ponce, as Spike liked to say, than for them to know the truth?


*****

Angel walked into the supermarket and began searching the aisles. Unsurprisingly, he found Xander in the aisle marked chips, crackers and cookies'. The vampire had to stifle a smile at the sight of the mortal boy walking around grabbing items. He had forgotten to get a cart and his arms were full to the brim with packages.

Angel walked up behind him and grabbed a package of cookies from where it was almost falling out of his goodie-laden arms.

Startled by the sudden presence and the grab for cookies, Xander jumped, causing everything he was carrying to fall to the ground in a pile. Xander tripped on a bag of Doritos and fell in an undignified heap. He looked up at the towering figure.

"Sorry" Angel held out a hand to help Xander up and was unprepared for the electric shock that went through his dead body when Xander's warm fingers clasped his.

Xander allowed Angel to pull him to his feet and tried to ignore the sensation Angel's cool fingers clasped around his brought forth. "My fault." He grinned. "I probably should have gotten a cart." He bent down and started picking up the fallen food, ignorant to the view he was giving.

Angel averted his dark gaze and looked around the empty aisle. "So, did you find everything you needed?"

Xander stood up and looked around. "Almost." He handed the armful of snack goods to Angel and disappeared around the corner.

As Angel stood there in the middle of the snack-food aisle waiting for Xander to return, he took a deep, unneeded breath to calm himself. Spending any length of time around the mortal was going to push his control to the limit.

"Okay, all set." Xander stepped back into the aisle with another armful of food as well as one of those small baskets filled with more food. When Angel didn't seem to hear him, he spoke again.

"Deadboy?" He asked as he touched the older man's shoulder. "You all right?"

Angel startled out of his internal thoughts at the warm hand on his shoulder. "Hmm?" He asked as he turned around. His dead heart skipped a beat at the look of concern in Xander's brown eyes.

"Are you okay?" Xander asked again. There was an odd expression of Angel's face.

Angel nodded. "You ready?"

"Yep. Junk food accounted for." He grinned and walked towards the checkout counter with Angel following him.

*****

His life was a parody. That's all there was to it. Xander couldn't believe the insanity that had become his life. Nothing made sense anymore. Things had been bad for a long time, but it had gotten progressively worse in the past year.

When they had graduated, he had decided to go on a road trip. That had turned out disastrous. It wasn't so much that the trip itself was that awful. It was really nice to get away from the Hellmouth for awhile. But his car had broken down and he had been stuck in a small town working at a strip club.


The job itself had been enlightening, to say the least, but he found himself missing Sunnydale and his friends. Or so he had thought. When he returned and found everyone emersed in their own lives, Xander had to ask himself what it was he had missed.

Was it Sunnydale he had missed? Or his friends? If he were being honest, he would admit that he missed being needed. He missed being counted on when there was trouble.

But when he had returned from his trip, he found that he wasn't needed. Maybe he never had been. But it wasn't just him who was being left behind. They all were. Giles and Willow too. They had all grown apart. The sad thing was, he didn't miss it as much as he thought he would. Sure he missed helping out. He missed having a purpose. But most of all he missed his friend. He missed how things had been before. Before they knew what went bump in the night. He missed Willow. He missed the closeness they had shared. He missed the way things were before Jesse died, before vampires. Before Buffy.

But that wasn't right either. He didn't want to go back to before he knew what evil surrounded them. He wanted he wasn't really sure what he had wanted. It was really a moot point now. He had come back from his road trip, and drifted into the background, which he had recently realized was where he had always been.

Things had changed. It wasn't about their little group anymore. Giles was enjoying his new life of leisure. Buffy had a new boyfriend. Willow had been dealing with Oz's departure. Spike had joined their little group, albeit reluctantly.

Seeing Spike on a regular basis had brought a whole slew of new thoughts to Xander. It made him see vampires in general and Angel in particular in a new light. It wasn't so much that he thought of vampires differently, but that he realized that Spike wasn't like other vampires, and by extension, neither was Angel.

It made him rethink everything he had believed about his former nemesis. Seeing Spike dealing with his situation made Xander see what Angel lived with in a new light. He had come to realize that Angel and Angelus weren't so different as everyone wanted to believe.

Sure, the soul definitely changed him, but in a lot of ways, they were the same. He understood, more than ever, why he and Buffy were doomed to badness' as Willow had once said. He had always believed that Angel and Buffy were bad for each other, but for a long time his jealousy clouded his reasons. Now, he saw things as they were. Buffy and Angel were fundamentally different.

He was a demon. No amount of soul restorations would change that. There were things that he had to deal with on a daily basis that she would never understand. Things he himself would never understand. But then he wasn't trying to claim he could understand. He wasn't trying to pretend things were different than they were.

In fact he understood things all too well. Angel was a demon. A vampire. And that didn't bother Xander. It was who he was. He didn't want to change him. He didn't want to want to change him.

He hadn't realized that his opinion of the vampire had changed until he was confronted with the object of his many thoughts.

//Flashback – May 2000//

Xander stalked down the street mumbling to himself. He was so irritated he couldn't see straight. First Spike tells him both Willow and Buffy want him to join the army, then he gets stuck delivering more clothing to Riley. When he finally makes it to Giles house, Buffy is being a bigger bitch than usual.

Giles was drunk, Buffy was insulting everyone, and Willow was screaming something about no one accepting her decisions, shortly after she had blurted out that she was sleeping with the Big Bad himself. Xander was the only person the announcement wasn't a shock to. He had known for several weeks about their relationship. He personally didn't have a problem with it. He actually liked the vampire, despite his propensity to cause trouble.

The night had gone from bad to worse when he and Anya had left the former watcher's house only to get into an argument of their own. Anya was whining that his problems with his friends were cutting into her sex life. He had lost it then and told her where she could stick her sex life. She had scowled at him then and stomped off.

Xander couldn't bring himself to be upset at that moment. He was sure he'd be apologizing later, if for no other reason than because the former demon was the only one who actually wanted him around, even if it was only for sex.

He was so lost in his own thoughts that he failed to see the lone figure walking around the vacant street until he had barreled into it.

"Whoa. Sorry, buddy." Xander apologized as he picked himself off of the ground.

"Xander?"

Xander looked up at the familiar voice. "Deadboy?"

Xander frowned when he saw the vampire. "What are you doing here?"

Angel ran a hand through his hair. "It's a long story."

Xander nodded.

"I'm sure Buffy will tell you all about it."

Xander snorted, causing Angel to eye him carefully. "Problems?"

Xander shrugged. "Long story." He looked up and grinned suddenly. "I'll tell you mine if you tell me yours."

Angel stared at Xander in shock for a second before nodding his head dumbly. "Sure."

Xander turned around and headed in the direction he had come from. "There's a coffee shop down the street."

Angel followed Xander down the block and into a local coffee shop. He took a seat in a corner booth and waited while Xander ordered.

Xander sat at the booth across from the vampire and handed him a steaming cup. Angel looked up, surprised.

"You can drink coffee, right?" Xander asked nervously.

"Yes. Thank you." Angel took the drink and fiddled with the lid as Xander began pouring three different varieties of creamer into his own coffee.

"So, you're here to see Buff, I take it." Xander began after an awkward silence.

"I came to apologize." Angel admitted, not entirely sure why he was telling this to Xander Harris of all people.

Xander raised an eyebrow. "For that whole Faith thing?" When Angel nodded Xander shook his head. "If you don't mind my asking Why?"

Angel looked up from stirring his coffee. "Excuse me?"

Xander smiled at the confused look crossing Angel's features. It wasn't very often that he saw the vampire less than stoic. "The way I understood what happened in LA, Buffy was out of line." He looked into Angel's face, staring intently into his eyes for a second. "You have nothing to be sorry for."

Angel stared at the boy, stunned. After a moment of silence he smiled. "I'm not really sure why I came here. I said some things to her I wasn't very nice but I'm not sorry." He watched Xander carefully, not sure how the mortal would take that admission.

Xander grinned. "If it makes you feel any better I just came from a big blow out with her Buffyness, and I said some pretty nasty things myself. I'm not sorry either."

"What did you fight about?" Angel asked. "You don't have to tell me"

Xander shrugged. "Honestly? She's a bitch. Or at least she's acting like one." At Angel's raised eyebrow he continued. "We've grown apart recently. She's spent so much time with Riley that she hasn't even noticed what's going on around her." He paused, realizing what he'd said. "I'm sorry. I bet you don't want to hear about Buffy and Riley."

Angel was touched by the odd concern for his feelings Xander was exhibiting. "We've met, Riley and I."

"Really?" Xander asked. "I would have paid good money to see that."

Angel watched Xander take a drink from his coffee, surprised at the boy's comment. "You don't like him?"

Xander shrugged. "I don't know. He's all right, I guess. I'm not really too keen on these Initiative types." He paused, "He's not you but I guess that's sort of the point, isn't it?" Xander looked down, suddenly finding the table extremely interesting. He couldn't believe he'd said that.

"You hated it when Buffy and I were together." Angel reminded him with a smile.

"True. But that was different."

"How?" Angel stared at Xander, awaiting the boy's response. He had his own theories about why Xander was against his relationship with the Slayer, but he was curious to see what Xander would admit to.

Xander looked up from the table and stared into the fathomless brown eyes, knowing that he was about to put voice to thoughts he'd never uttered to anyone before.

"In the beginning I hated you, not because you were a vampire, but because you had Buffy. Later I hated you because you were everything I wasn't. Then I hated you for what happened with the Judge, Acathla Jenny." He watched Angel's eyes cloud over in guilt and hurried to continue. "But now"

"Now what? Why do you hate me now?" Angel asked, wondering what the new reason was, and why he suddenly didn't want this boy to hate him.

"I don't." Xander told him simply. At Angel's stunned expression, Xander laughed. "Now don't pass out or anything, but, I realize what happened before isn't your fault." He paused, bracing himself for his next words. "I forgive you." He paused for a second. "I'm sorry. About everything that happened. The things I said about you." He laughed hollowly. "The things I *thought* about you. I was wrong, and I'm sorry."

Angel stared at Xander, certain he had somehow misheard him. Looking into Xander's brown eyes, he realized he hadn't. He was speechless. He had no idea what he should say, if he should say anything so he nodded, and did the only thing he could. He changed the subject.

"So, how is Willow? Cordelia tells me she's involved with someone she can't tell the others about?"

Xander nodded. "Spike" He paused, "Scary, isn't it?"

Angel smiled slightly, only mildly wondering why the idea of his troublesome Childe and the shy hacker together didn't bother him.

Xander grinned, thankful for the change in subject. "Yeah, she and junior started seeing each other after that botched spell of hers"

They ended up speaking for a few hours before Angel had to leave in order to get back to LA before the sun rose. Angel left Xander on the street outside of the coffee shop, not doubting that the boy could take care of himself until he reached his house.

Xander watched the vampire leave and knew that something had changed. He wasn't entirely certain what had changed. But something he had. Or maybe he was just imagining things.

//End Flashback//

*****

Angel lay in his bed, staring at the ceiling. He could hear Xander moving around in the living room and wondered why it was he was finding it so difficult to sleep. Was it because it was still early, and he was normally out patrolling at this time? Was it because his normally silent apartment was filled with the sound of another person? Or was it because of who that person was?

He let his mind drift back to that night several weeks previous when he had found himself knocking on Xander's door. However the boy hadn't been home. He wasn't sure why he had gone there. Why he hadn't just returned to LA after his run in with Riley and his apology to Buffy.

He found himself not feeling very sorry for the things he'd said to his former girlfriend. He wasn't entirely sure why he had made the trip to Sunnydale, but he couldn't seem to leave without seeing Xander.

The disappointment he felt at finding Xander's house empty caused the vampire to walk the familiar streets of Sunnydale. He had been surprised when he had bumped into Xander, and even more surprised when the boy invited him to go for coffee.

The vampire couldn't explain the feeling which had gone through him when Xander apologized, Those few words meant more to him than he ever would have imagined, and he wasn't entirely certain why. At least not then. But now. Now he knew.

And he was going to do something about it.

Angel climbed out of bed and pulled on a pair of sweat pants and walked out into the living room. He could see Xander sitting at the kitchen table eating out of a slightly smashed bag of chips.

Xander looked up. "Did I wake you?"

Angel shook his head, his face expressionless. "We need to talk."

*****

Xander looked up at Angel. "Talk? About what?" He asked nervously, looking back down to the table.

Angel sat down across from him and stared at him for several long seconds before speaking again. "I'm sorry."

Xander stared at the vampire dumbly. He blinked once. Surely he had misheard him. Either that or he had missed something important. "Huh? Sorry? For what?"

Angel tore his gaze away from Xander's face and looked down at his hands, which were resting flat against the table. "I'm sorry you had to come here."

Pain flashed briefly in Xander's eyes as he registered what Angel had said. He stood up stiffly and put his bag of chips back in the cupboard before turning around to face Angel again.

"Don't worry. You won't even know I'm here." He paused, taking a deep calming breath. "I'll find somewhere else to stay tomorrow." He said in a clipped tone just before he walked out of the kitchen and into the living room.

"What?" Angel was confused. He had just tried to apologize and now Xander was mad. He stood up and followed the mortal out into the living room.

"What's wrong?" He asked carefully as he sat in the chair opposite the couch, where Xander was seated.

Xander looked up, his dark eyes flashing angrily. "Isn't it obvious?"

"No, it isn't." Angel told him honestly.

"You don't want me here any more than I want to be here." It wasn't a complete lie. Angel didn't want him there, and he didn't want to be somewhere where he wasn't wanted. He got enough of that at home.

Angel frowned, realizing Xander didn't want to me there he nodded and stood up, heading towards his bedroom. He paused at the end of the hall, as the rest of what Xander had said registered. He turned around. "What do you mean I don't want you here?"

Xander looked at him as if he'd grown another head. "You're the one who's sorry I'm here at all."

Angel stared at him in disbelief as he walked back to the couch, this time sitting next to Xander. "That That isn't what I meant." He whispered, fighting the urge to grab the mortal's hand.

Xander turned his head to look at the vampire and found himself lost in his chocolate eyes. "What did you mean, then?" He asked quietly, knowing he could still hear him.

They were so close Angel could feel Xander's warm breath against his skin. He closed his eyes to the sensation for a second before reopening his eyes and taking a deep unneeded breath to shake loose from the rampant thoughts running through his head.

Angel ran a hand through his hair as he scooted over just a bit. Being so close to Xander was causing his mind to draw a blank of wait they were discussing, but he knew that it was important, so he tried to focus.

"Willow told me you didn't want to be here. I'm sorry you had to come." Angel spoke softly, hoping Xander couldn't hear the pain that knowledge was causing him.

Angel began to stand when he was stopped by Xander's hand on his arm. When Angel turned to look at him, Xander smiled.

"She was right." He spoke softly, his grip on Angel's arm tightening as angel tried to move away. He knew the vampire could get loose if he wanted to, but Xander hoped that he didn't. "But not for the reason you think."

Angel relaxed onto the couch as he waited for Xander to continue.

When it was apparent Angel wasn't leaving, Xander released his grip and ran a hand through his own hair, unsure if he was doing the right thing. What he was about to say could make his time in LA extremely awkward. He turned to look at the vampire and found Angel staring at him intently, an emotion he couldn't bare to hope for in his dark eyes.

He stood up and walked a few feet away from the couch and Angel, knowing he needed some distance if he was going to be completely honest.

"You make me nervous." He blurted out.

Angel raised an eyebrow at Xander, trying to decide if that was a good thing or not. Did he make him nervous because he was afraid, or because he wanted him and didn't know how to deal with that?

Xander started walking around the living room, trying to get rid of some of his nervous energy. "Do you remember when you came to Sunnydale a few weeks ago?" He asked, looking to Angel, hoping it hadn't been forgotten the way he feared.

"Yes." Angel answered, afraid of what his voice would sound like if he spoke more than the one word.

Xander stopped his mild pacing and turned to look at the vampire, getting caught by the emotion he could see in his eyes. "Do you ever think about that night?"

"Constantly." Angel admitted.

Xander looked at him trying to gauge the sincerity of his answer. He grinned. "I don't mean the part about pounding on farmboy."

Angel chuckled. "That was fun." He stood up and walked over to where Xander was standing. "But that's not what keeps me up at night."

"It's not?" Xander asked quietly, standing mere inches away from the vampire. "What is."

Angel leaned forward. "This." He whispered just before he captured Xander's lips in a tender kiss.

*****

Willow leaned back against Spike as she traced lazy circles along his bare chest. She sighed in contentment as she felt her eyes drooping.

Spike smirked. "You think they've shagged yet?" He asked suddenly.

Willow hit him playfully. "Spike!" She said indignantly before chuckling to herself. "They probably haven't even come within ten feet of each other."

Spike snorted. "We really need to talk to them repressing their baser instincts." Spike said sarcastically.

Willow closed her eyes again, speaking once more before slipping off to sleep. "Or we could just lock them in the bedroom until they test out the soul of his."

She smiled softly as Spikes laughter followed her into slumber.

"I like the way you think, pet."

****

Xander was lost in the feeling of those cool lips pressed against his, first tenderly, and then more urgently, almost as if he was afraid it would all end at any moment.

Xander kissed him back fervently, opening his mouth to the questing tongue, pressing his body closer to the vampires, losing himself in sensation he never imagined actually feeling. He felt strong arms wrap themselves around his body, pulling him impossibly closer.

As breathing became necessary, Xander reluctantly pulled his lips away. He looked into Angel's eyes and saw his eyes darkened in what he assumed was something similar to what he was feeling. He looked away and tried to push away from the strong arms encircling him. Angel just tightened his arms around him.

Xander shook his head and tried to move away again. He could feel Angel stiffen and let his arms drop.

"You don't want this?" Angel asked him as he stepped away.

Xander looked up and stared at Angel's face. For the first time, he could see true emotion in his features. Not the expressionless mask the vampire was good at showing everyone. Not the arrogant cockiness he saw in Angelus' face, not the tenseness he seemed to have surrounding him during most of their past dealings. Xander could almost feel the emotions spilling forth from the normally stoic vampire.

"It's not that" Xander said as he stepped back and moved to sit back on the couch.

"Then what?" Angel asked, confused. He had thought that Xander felt the same way he did, if that kiss had been any indication. But now, the mortal was moving away, shutting him out, and he wanted to know why.

"I have something to tell you." Xander looked up again, forcing himself to look into those eyes. "It's about your soul."

Angel sighed and sat in the chair opposite Xander. "Is that what's bothering you?" He asked, understanding the boy's hesitation. Xander had seen Angelus, first hand, and knew what Angel was capable of when his demon was in control.

Angel knew that it was dangerous for him to even tempt himself with Xander near him. He could so easily be happy with him, and it wouldn't take barely anything for that one moment to occur. He knew all of this, and yet couldn't bring himself to push the boy away. He wanted him, needed him, and for once he wanted to give into those needs.

Angel opened his mouth to speak but shut it again when he saw the look of worry in his potential lover's eyes. "What is it? Are you afraid I'll lose my soul again? That I'll kill you?" He paused realizing that Xander was the first mortal he ever spoke to about Angelus who he didn't feel the needed to separate himself and his demon for. He smiled slightly at that realization, and then frowned as he remembered Xander's worries. "I can promise that won't happen. I could love you so easily I do love you."

Xander stared at Angel, almost as if he hadn't heard the vampire's admission. He seemed to be lost in his own thoughts. All of a sudden his face cleared and he took a deep breath. "It's not that. I'm not afraid of you." He told him honestly. He looked away from the intensity in Angel's dark eyes as he explained.

"Your soul is permanent." He took another deep breath. There, he'd said it. He looked back into Angel's eyes, waiting for the explosion.

It didn't come.

"What?" The question was so softly spoke Xander almost didn't hear it.

Xander moved from the couch to the coffee table, which was directly in front of Angel's chair. He looked into the vampire's eyes and placed a warm hand over one of his cooler ones. "When Willow did the restoration, she changed something in the spell. Your soul is anchored."

Angel looked into Xander's dark eyes, not daring to hope the words were true. "Are you sure?"

Xander nodded and removed his hand from Angel's. "I'm sorry." He started to step away.

"Sorry? What for?" Angel was confused again.

Xander sighed. "For knowing, and not telling you. For allowing my jealousy to prevent you from finding happiness. In general for being a petty bastard."

Angel couldn't help but smile at the tone of his voice, but his humor was quickly forgotten as the rest of his words registered. "Jealousy?" He asked, heeling his throat clamp up. Xander was still in love with Buffy, and hadn't wanted her to get back together with him. Didn't he know he didn't want her, hadn't wanted her since he lost his soul? No, of course he didn't. The vampire hadn't told anyone of the lie he had lived that last year in Sunnydale. But that wasn't the point. The point wasn't that Angel didn't want the Slayer, but that Xander did.

"You're still in love with Buffy." Angel whispered quietly.

Xander's eyes snapped up. "What? Good God no!" He nearly shouted.

"Then what do you mean, jealousy?"

Xander grinned slightly. "You sure do know how to lay I guy open, don't you Deadboy?" He sighed. "I didn't want you to get back together with her. I didn't want you anywhere near her. The very idea of her hands all over you" he stopped and visibly shuddered.

"Her hands on me?" Angel quirked an eyebrow before chuckling.

"It isn't funny!" Xander defended. He stood up angrily. "Well now you know. I'm sure you'll have a good laugh over this."

Angel watched Xander walk away from him, trying to figure out why he was so upset. When it hit him he wanted to burst out laughing again, but he didn't think that would go too far to ease Xander, so instead he stood up and walked over to Xander, whose back was to him.

"Xander" He spoke softly, hesitantly pulling the mortal against his chest. He didn't want Xander to leave before he could tell him how he felt. What he felt. If that scared the boy off, well, he'd have to deal with that.

"I'm not laughing." He spoke into his ear, his lips just barely grazing the lobe. "I don't want Buffy. I want you. I love you."

Xander took a deep shaky breath as the feel of Angel's closeness and his words penetrated his mind. "What?"

Angel turned him around and captured his lips in a fierce kiss. It was different than their previous kiss. That one was tender, and loving. This one was needy, and spoke of possession and desire.

Xander wrapped his hands around the vampire, getting lost in the moment, no longer caring that this was probably some dream hi hadn't woken up from. He didn't want to wake up. Ever.

*****

Willow walked up to the front door and hesitated, as she was about to knock. "It's awfully quiet in there. You don't think they've killed each other, do you?"

Spike smirked. "Not likely." He started banging heavily on the door before Willow could stop him.

Several moments later, the door was opened to reveal a slightly disheveled Xander. His hair was messy and his eyes were squinty at the bright light out in the hallway outside the apartment.

"Do you have any idea what time it is?" He hissed as he stepped aside to let them in.

"Spike smirked as a new scent assaulted his senses. "After dusk, mate. Where's Peaches?" He looked around the room. Nothing appeared out of place, but he could still smell the lingering scent of sex.

"He's sleeping." Xander nodded his head towards the bedroom as he walked into the kitchen and started making some coffee.

"Keep him up late did you?" Spike was grinning.

Willow joined her lover in his amusement as she noted how familiar Xander seemed to be with the workings of Angel's kitchen.

Xander ignored his friends as he continued to make some liquid caffeine. He hadn't gotten enough sleep, and Spike wasn't the best person to deal with first thing in the morning, or evening, or whatever.

"Why are you here?" He finally asked after he had poured himself some of the steaming liquid, which had finished brewing.

Willow sat across from her friend and accepted the cup he offered her. "We came to tell you we're leaving. We won't be going back to Sunnydale."

Xander looked up. "What?"

Spike shrugged as he riffled through Angel's fridge looking for something to eat. After pulling out a bag of blood and sticking it in the microwave he moved over to the cupboard and started searching for something to add to the heinous tasting animal blood.

"Peaches ahs everything under control here. We ain't needed in Sunnyhell. Thought I'd show Red here some of the world." After finding the bag of smashed Doritos, he made his way back to the table, stopping along the way to retrieve a mug from the counter and his bag of blood from the microwave.

Indicating the chips, he grinned. "Yours?"

Xander smiled sheepishly. "I had an accident at the store." He watched as Spike poured the thick red liquid into the mug and then started adding the Doritos, which were now little more than crumbs.

"So" Xander began as he turned to Willow. "When are you leaving?"

"Tonight." She looked at him sadly for a minute. "I'm sorry. Will you be all right? When will be going home?"

Xander turned to look in the direction of the bedroom. Angel was awake. He didn't know how he knew exactly, but he did. "I don't know if I am." He told his friends honestly.

Willow grinned. "You're going to stay here with Angel?"

Xander turned back to her, a serious expression on his face. "Does that bother you?"

Willow squeezed her friend's hand in reassurance. "No, of course not. That's great!" She squealed happily. Her eyes wandered from his face down to his neck, which were now marred by two perfect little holes not unlike the two she was wearing.

"But if you're going to go back to get your stuff, I suggest you wait until those heal. Buffy would have a fit."

Xander touched the marks gently with his fingertips as he hard Angel inter the kitchen. He smiled at his lover, who was clad only in a pair of black silk boxers; his hair still tousled from sleep. He smiled at Angel, as he spoke, "Strangely, I don't really care what she says."

Angel smiled back and marveled at the sight of his lover and the marks he had made on him as he had claimed him. "Doesn't matter. He isn't going back." He walked over to the fridge and started to prepare his own breakfast.

"Where are you going first?" He asked his Childe as he sat down next to Xander, his bare leg rubbing slightly against the mortals.

Willow looked at the dark-haired vampire. "You heard us?" She raised an amused eyebrow.

"Vampire hearing and all that." Xander grinned.

"Actually," Angel chuckled, "Spike made so much racket defiling his breakfast that I couldn't help but wake up."

The four of them burst out laughing at the chagrined look on Spike's face.

Willow's eyes lit up as began to tell them all of the places Spike promised to take her.

*****

After Willow and Spike had left, Xander leaned back against the front door and breathed a sigh of relief. He had been slightly concerned how willow would react when he told her that he wasn't returning to Sunnydale. But since she wasn't going back either, it seemed to work out perfectly.

"Did you mean it?" Angel's voice startled him out of his thoughts.

Xander turned to look at Angel who was leaning against the entrance tot he kitchen. "Mean what?"

"About not caring what Buffy thought. She isn't going to like this." Angel walked over to Xander and pulled him into his arms.

"Do you care what she thinks?" Xander asked quietly.

"No."

"Neither do I." Xander placed a kiss on the vampire's cool lips and pulled away from him, and walked towards the bedroom. "Now isn't there something else we could be doing instead of talking about Buffy?"

Angel groaned at the husky voice as he followed the younger man into the bedroom.

He was happy. Really and truly happy for the first time in what he was pretty sure was ever. It was going to take some getting used to.

*****

The End