Title: Is Worse Than the Disease
Author name: Jacob M. Bosch
Author Email: The characters are the property of Joss Whedon, Mutant Enemy, Kuzui, Sandollar, and David Greenwalt Productions, 20th Century Fox, and whoever else may have a hold upon them. The situation is wholly mine, and I do not mean to infringe upon any copyrights. I borrowed them. I intend on giving them back, but not before I have my fun. Don't sue me. Nobody's paying me to write this… and I really need the cash, too…
Summary: A spell cast on Angel causes some problems for Xander.
Couples: X/Angel, B/Angel
Spoilers: Quasi-season 2.
Rating PG-13—kinda slashy.
Author's comments: This fic is inspired by another story written by saone called A Dream is a Wish Your Demon Makes - a series. Permission was given to post this story.
Is Worse Than the Disease
Vampire Dating 101
Xander slapped Angel's hand away from the car door handle and opened it himself. Every freaking time he's with the gentleman-y stuff! Xander thought as he climbed into the car and slammed the door shut behind him. And why do I have to be the Polly Anna in this relationship anyway? Xander settled into the seat and crossed his arms angrily over his chest, stared out the windshield, and waited for Angel to get in the car.
"You need to put on your seat belt," Angel said after sliding behind the wheel.
Xander could not believe how badly he wanted to flip the vampire the bird.
It had been three weeks since they started dating and Xander's life was steadily going to hell.
Buffy was barely talking to him. Sure she was friendly enough, she smiled and waved at him in the halls at school, but that's about as far as their social interaction went. Willow was cool, she always was, but Xander wasn't feeling the moral support. Willow has to be there for Buffy, because Buffy is suffering so much more than I am. Poor, poor Buffy has to stand by and let her blood swilling, ex-serial killing boyfriend date somebody else.
And going to the Library these days was like actually going to a Library. No one talked unless it was really, really important. There was no friendly banter, no gossip… just silence. And boy if his folks didn't already think he was registering for G.L.A.A.D. they were after Angel came to the house asking permission to court Xander.
And on top of everything else Xander was pretty sure any chance he had of ever getting with Buffy was officially non-existent.
"You know, Angel… just… just you know…" Xander bowed his head and rubbed the thick part of his palm against the center of his forehead, trying to soothe a budding migraine before it blossomed.
"I'm not going to start the car until you fasten your seat belt, I don't want to risk you getting hurt."
"Sure… fine… whatever."
Xander fastened his seat belt.
Angel leaned over and kissed Xander on the temple. "Now was that so hard?" he asked.
"Just start the freaking car and let's go!" Xander said with his upper lip curled and his teeth clenched.
Angel's 1967 Plymouth GTX convertible slowly pulled away from the curb and they were off.
It was a nice little bistro called Bujold's.
Bujold's was the kind of place Xander would pass on his way to Burger World and glance through their spotless, nearly invisible windows and think: Do they really need that many chandeliers?
Xander and Angel stood inside the restaurant's homey waiting area after checking their coats. Angel was in front of Xander making polite conversation with a man dressed in a black tux. Xander thought the man was the Maitre d', but later found out he was the bistro's head chef.
Looking past Angel's beefy shoulder, Xander saw that the place was packed with well-dressed men and women dining on food that cost more than most households' weekly grocery budget. Xander looked down at his own attire and made a face. He obviously wasn't dressed up enough to eat here. He looked back up and noted that Angel was. But then Angel always dressed to the nines when they went out.
Tonight Angel had on an especially dressy black two-piece suit, probably some Italian deal Xander couldn't pronounce. It had kind of a military-inspired feel, but with a civilian tone to round out the edges. The jacket was buttoned—the buttons were a dark gold—up to Angel's neck, very starch, stiff like you'd see in a dress uniform, but the pants were looser, almost baggy, kind of slick. Even slicker were the black Oxfords on his feet. Xander never liked Angel, but he had to admit the bloodsucker knew how to dress.
Xander, however, had on a blue plaid short-sleeve shirt, tan cargo pants, and a pair of second hand white Converses'. The shirt and pants weren't ironed. But frankly Angel was lucky any of it was clean.
The Hostess came up to Angel just like you'd see in the movies: she wore a tux with black heels and carried two-laminated menus in the crook of her arm. She was an older woman in her mid-thirties. Pretty in an unassuming way. She had shoulder length auburn hair, brown eyes, and thin unpainted lips.
"We have a table waiting for you, sirs. If you'll follow me."
She led them from the bistro's waiting area through a maze of diners to a small empty table covered by a white lace tablecloth. A single lit candle rested in a silver wick that sat at the center of the circular dining table. The table sat near one of the windows. Only one of them would be visible to the outside, and the other hidden behind a wallpapered wall when they sat down.
Xander stared at the table, his eyes measuring its wanting diameter.
"Yes, my… yes, Xander?"
"Isn't this table a little, um, little?"
Xander startled when Angel's voice spoke up behind him. The breath of his words came out lukewarm behind Xander's ear. Like the used air released from a balloon in short bursts.
"I thought we were going for intimacy?"
Xander jerked again as Angel's placed his hand on the nape of his neck and slid it down to the base of his back and gently prodded Xander over to the chair he'd pulled out for him. Xander was so glad the chair Angel gave him was the one behind the wall that he put up no resistance when the vampire seated him, or when Angel pushed the chair in under the table.
The Hostess handed them both menus. "Here are your menus, sirs."
"Thank you, Heather. Could you give us a few minutes to decide our orders?"
Heather went away.
The soft, polite murmur of conversations and silverware clinking against dinnerware filled the air while Xander hid behind his menu in an effort to ignore Angel's presence across from him. Xander knew he couldn't get away with it for very long, but this was the first time he'd been out in public with the vampire. Well that's not true—they'd gone to the movies a couple of times the week before. But for a good portion of those dates they were in the dark sitting way in the back of the theater… holding hands. Kissing…
"See anything you like?" Angel asked.
"Less and less."
Xander could practically hear Angel's forehead wrinkle at that.
"If you can't find anything you're interested in eating here we can go someplace else."
Xander lowered the menu, but not before working his lips into a smile.
"No, here's fine."
Angel returned the smile, but his was sincere.
"So… how can you afford a place like this?" Xander asked.
"I go around town shaking down locals and scare them into giving me their money," Angel answered with a straight face. Xander gave the vampire a wide-eyed stare and let his menu flop onto the table.
The edges of Angel's lips twitched before a grin showed itself and it only succeeded in making Xander want to get up and run from the table even more.
"I'm kidding, Xander. When you live as long as I do you acquire a lot of things that end up worth quite a lot. Art… books… jewelry."
Xander give Angel a narrow stare before deciding to believe the vampire's explanation, even though he was predisposed to believe the worst. He picked up the menu and went back to trying to decipher the names of the food. In the end Xander decided on the most expensive dish and told Angel he was ready to order.
Angel raised an eyebrow. "You want to have the Ostriche Modo Mio?" He asked.
Angel gave Xander a long stare then nodded, and said, "What about for the main course?"
It was Xander's turn to look confused. "What do you mean? Isn't… What am I about to order?"
"Appetizer! You telling me an appetizer costs fifteen freakin' bucks?"
Angel nodded. "Plus tax."
"You could buy, like, seven Big World Burgers for that!"
Xander looked at his menu again. "Where are the main courses?"
"Bottom right side."
Xander found them and scanned the section twice before he looked back at Angel, dazed. "The cheapest thing here is fifty dollars," he whispered.
Angel shrugged again, this time smiling warmly at Xander's flustered expression.
When the waiter arrived with his order and set the plate down in front of him Xander understood Angel's Mr. Spock imitation. Ostriche Modo Mio was baked oysters served on a half shell and stuffed with spinach, Brie cheese, and pancetta with béchamel sauce. Well, Xander thought as he took in the two large shells, at least they're not raw.
Angel ordered a bowl of Tortellinisoup and a glass of Chateau Le Pin.
"You can eat food?" Xander asked, gawking as Angel spooned up the soup.
"I don't usually, but I can."
"Then why…?" Xander started.
"Why do vampires drink blood?"
"Giles would probably have a better theory about that than I do, Xander."
"What's your theory?"
Angel shrugged. "We're demons."
"That's a little simplistic, isn't it?" Xander asked dubiously.
"What do you mean by simplistic?"
"Well, you can eat food but until tonight all I've ever seen you do is drink pig's blood. Why drink blood at all if you can have normal food?"
"Normal food doesn't really taste… right. I don't have the same sense of taste you do. Food doesn't have flavors like sweet, bitter, salty or sour… it just tastes bland. But blood, even pig's blood, is delicious by comparison," Angel said taking a sip of his wine. "Besides, vampires don't get what they need from human food."
"Oh. Then why eat here at all?"
Angel put his wineglass down on the table. "I want to share the experience with you at least a little."
Xander ordered the Filetto di Bue for the main course. The fact that it cost seventy bucks actually had little to do with his decision. The Filetto di Bue was only thing on the menu that sounded somewhat familiar. And it was good, too. The filet was juicy and perfectly seasoned, still not worth seventy dollars, but delicious none the less.
Angel ordered the same.
"Germany. The most beautiful place… scratch that, the second most beautiful place I've ever been."
"Tell me what the first is."
"So if you had a plane ticket right now to anyplace in the world, and you could survive the trip, you'd visit your second choice and not the first?" Xander asked while looking down at his filet, slicing off another piece of his steak with a knife and fork. He was chewing on the tender morsel when Angel answered.
"Bad memories," Angel stated plainly, eying his nearly empty wineglass. His long, thick fingers caressing the bloom.
Xander knew what those bad memories were and decided to avoid that topic.
"What's so wonderful about this Rhine Valley place?"
Angel's gaze returned to Xander and he seemed to brighten up. "You've never seen so much green. And the river running through the valley is so clear you can see straight through to the bottom."
"In the dark?"
Angel laughed. A soft deep laugh and Xander found that it didn't irritate him that much, as opposed to a lot of other stuff the vampire did around him. "No. There's this castle overlooking the river and we could see much of the valley from its turrets without exposure."
Angel sort of wiggled in his chair, as if he were trying to get comfortable. Which struck Xander as odd. Last time he'd seen Angel squirm like that he was holding a cross on the vampire. Xander almost chuckled. Barring his recessitating Buffy and Buffy taking out the Master, thus closing the Hellmouth, that little incident in Angel's apartment had been the highlight of Xander's evening.
"Um… Darla, Drusilla, and Spike."
Xander was once again stunned. "You mean you thought something was pretty back in your evil days?"
"No… no… I, Angelus, didn't appreciate it. But I remember being there and I remember how lovely the valley was," Angel said.
Xander was just sitting there minding his own business, enjoying his dessert when Angel said:
"I love you."
Xander sighed and put his spoon down on the plate beside his dessert. Setting his elbows on the table Xander interlocked his fingers, looked his companion directly in the eyes and said very patiently: "Angel, I asked you not to do that."
"I try not to."
"Not hard enough do you try."
"It would be nice to hear you say it back once," Xander opened his mouth, "and mean it," Angel continued.
Xander closed his mouth, dropped his gaze and stared at his half-eaten chocolate mousse. He'd given up trying to convince Angel he had love-like feelings for the vampire after their second official date. Angel wasn't buying the act any more.
Evidently love wasn't completely blind.
"I don't love you, Angel."
"Have you even tried?"
Xander jerked his head up, his eyes felt like they were about to fall out of their sockets they were so wide, "What?"
"Have you even tried to love me?"
"What kind of stupid ass question is that?"
"I think it's a reasonable one," Angel responded raising his chin and appraised Xander with lofty stare.
"Angel, I told you before, this thing we have, it's about us having a good time."
"Sex. You mean it's about us having sex," Angel said bluntly—and way too loud in Xander's opinion.
"Could you say that a little louder, I don't think the people in the bathrooms caught that last part."
"Do you think I care what other people think about us?" Angel's expression just became haughtier with every passing second.
"I know you don't care, and it's alarming!"
"There's a chance we can have something more than sex, Xander, if you'd let us," Angel said in a tone of voice that was almost pleading. His expression no longer arrogant, Angel's eyes had become soft and doleful.
Xander unhooked his fingers and covered his face with his hands briefly before pressing them palms together in front of his face, like he was about to do a little prayer. "Can we not have this conversation? We had a nice dinner and I'm really digging my chocolate mousse, so can we please, please not have this conversation?"
Angel pursed his lips like he just sucked on a lemon, which Xander guessed was a bad analogy in Angel's case, and turned his head and stared out the window, "Whatever you want."
"Yeah, that's right. Whatever I want," Xander picked up his spoon but didn't eat.
He'd lost his appetite.
They walked back to Angel's car in silence, side by side, but at a comfortable distance. They hadn't spoken since dessert. Xander for one was pissed and didn't want to talk. And he was starting to think Giles and Willow misunderstood the sex part of the spell, because Angel wasn't the least bit interested in it. Sex, that is, and if that was the case maybe Xander didn't have to keep dating Angel.
I'll talk to Giles about it Monday at school.
Angel parked his car two streets down since there was no parking near the restaurant. It wasn't really late out, but it was dark enough Xander would have been leery of walking alone. But not tonight! There's a big strong vampire to protect me from the big, scary monsters! Xander picked up speed and paced several feet ahead of Angel.
Angel was smart enough—or maybe he was pissed off at Xander, too—and let him put distance between them until they reached the Plymouth.
"Xander, wait," Xander heard Angel say behind him just as he was wrapping his hand around the passenger door handle. Xander paused then went ahead and opened the car door. Only to have the vampire cover the hand on the handle with his own and close it back.
"I want to go home, Angel. I don't want to talk about this," Xander stated, his back to the vampire. His voice sounded tired and hollow to his own ears.
"I'm sorry, okay? You can't know how frustrating it is to love someone so much and not have that love returned. It hurts."
Is he kidding? Xander wondered, but said aloud, "Hey, I offered to sleep with you, I think you should take what you can get."
"And why do you want to make love? Because you think it's going to break some imaginary spell, not because you really want me!"
"Angel, I said I don't want to talk…" Xander stopped then spun around to face Angel.
"What is it?"
Angel was standing very close but Xander didn't back up, instead he looked up into Angel's concerned eyes. "Why do you love me?"
Angel shook his head. "I don't understand?"
"Why do you have those feelings for me, Angel?"
"That's a crazy question. I just do," Angel said, shrugging helplessly.
"All right, fine. Then tell me what exactly do you love about me? What makes Xander Harris so lovable to Angel?"
Angel looked confused and Xander smiled because he just figured out a way to finally convince Angel he was hexed. In fact Xander thought he had the vampire dead to rights. Xander's own parents were hard pressed to find something to love about him, other than the blood relation thing, and they'd known Xander all his life. Angel barely knew him and until recently couldn't stand him.
"Well… well, I love how… how… I mean,"
"Yeah, go ahead," Xander encouraged. I got you, you lovesick twit!
"I love that you're…"
"I'm waiting, Angel."
"Any night now will be fine."
"Will you just let me collect my thoughts!" Angel exclaimed rubbing his hands together as if he were trying to warm them over a fire. Angel's eyes darted wildly and his voice sounded hurried, maybe even a little panicked.
Xander crossed his arms over his chest and leaned back on the side of the car and watched Angel with a self-satisfied smirk plastered across his face. Let's see him Romeo and Juliet his way out this! Xander thought, his grin growing larger and more shark-like every second.
A woman's scream cut the night air, long and high with terror. Angel and Xander started to run in the direction the yell came from.
"No, Xander! You wait here!" Angel said, pushing Xander back against the car with one hand.
"No way, Dead boy! I'm not going to stand here and--"
"Xander, I can't worry about you and help whoever might be in trouble!"
"Please, Xander, wait here!" Angel's hand closed and caught a hand full of Xander's shirt before he let go and took off running.
Xander stared at the vampire's retreating back in disbelief. Sputtering mutely. How dare… Who does he think he is telling me what to do!
Xander turned to the voice and groaned, his stomach falling to his feet when his eyes confirmed what his ears heard. Larry Blaisedale and three of his football buddies were walking across the street towards the convertible. Larry and one of the jocks, Jason Gilmore, came around the front of the car, and the other two stalked around the rear.
It was pretty obvious they were cutting off avenues of escape.
"Larry! What has you out on this fine, wonderful evening?"
"We heard you talking to your boyfriend," Larry said.
Xander kept his eyes trained on Larry. Not that Xander wasn't afraid of the other three—they were all very accomplished thugs. Xander was just more wary of their bulky leader—Larry was the only one who'd ever hit him.
"Oh, you mean that guy?" Xander asked, waving his hand in a dismissive manner. "Naw! I don't know what you heard but I definitely do not have a boyfriend. That guy's just… actually he's Buffy Summers' significant other."
"So you offer to give it up to all your girlfriend's boyfriends?"
"Ha! Haha, heard that part, did you?"
"I always had a feeling about you, Harris."
Larry shoved Xander into the waiting grasps of the two jocks standing behind Xander. He didn't bother struggling against the restraining arms, instead Xander used them. They supported him when he jumped and thrust his legs straight out and buried one foot in Larry's stomach and the other in his crotch. Larry went down like a sack of stupid things, clutching at his nether regions. Xander thought he'd hit Larry harder in the gut, but God knows Xander knew it didn't take a lot of effort to make a guy hurt where it counts.
"Gee, Lar, did I get cha?"
Jason bent down to help the writhing fullback but Larry groaned at his buddy to leave him alone and get Xander. When Jason closed in, his hands bunched into fists, Xander shut his eyes and waited for the pummeling to begin. It didn't.
Xander opened his eyes and saw that Jason's fist filled up his entire field of vision, hanging motionlessly in front of his face.
"Sorry, I can't have you sullying the merchandise."
For the second time that night Xander's stomach felt laden after recognizing a voice.
Spike threw Jason over the hood of the car one handed then stepped in front of Xander and the two jocks. Spike's bleached blond hair was shocking under the street lamp, especially since most of the vampire's squared features lie hidden in shadows. But Xander could see enough of Spike's face to know he hadn't vamped out, that Spike's skin was smooth and as pale as white marble.
"Let me go!" Xander yelled as he finally struggled against the hands restraining him. Getting beat up was one thing, and basically that's all Larry and his gang were going to do to him, but Spike was a whole different story.
"Another boyfriend, Xander?" one of the jocks asked.
"Let me go and get the hell away from here! He'll kill us all!" Xander cried, reluctant to take his eyes off the vampire affectionately known as William the Bloody.
Spike's teeth suddenly became visible as a sinister grin split his face. "I love it when people sing my praises!"
"Ooo, scary! Little blondie's going to get us!"
"Did we not just see him throw your gay bashing pal over the car like it was nothing?" Xander exclaimed, reeling at the sheer stupidity of the people he went to school with.
"That's right, mates," Spike said stalking closer so that he stood directly under the streetlight, his face morphing to game, "size isn't everything."
"Jesus!" the goon on Xander's left let go of his arm and took off down the street. The remaining jock's grip grew tighter and Xander knew without looking, the guy was trying to take a little trip to Denial Land. Not that Xander could really blame him. There were times Xander wanted to soak in the comfort that is shock, but unfortunately, right now, the jock was getting in the way of Xander's defending himself.
"Spike, what do you want?" Xander asked in an effort to buy time while he tried to wriggle out of the jock's hold.
"Checking out the new addition to the family, s'all," Spike looked Xander over with phosphorescence yellow eyes and shook his head. "You over the Slayer…I don't see it."
"Which is probably why you thought that spell was sooo funny," Xander's voice oozing with rancor.
"Funny? I'm the first to admit I got something of a perverse sense of humor, but you and Angel doing the fruity dance doesn't quite set off my ha-ha meter. And what spell?"
It might have been reality catching up with him, or the un-reality of Xander holding a conversation with Spike, but the jock behind Xander fainted and collapsed to the curb, almost taking Xander down with him. Xander turned his head and looked down at the unconscious jock. I guess I can't leave him, the bronze medalist for hood vaulting and Larry here with Spike… can I?
"Angel's close by, Spike," Xander said returning his gaze to vampire, "maybe you should go find something else to eat. There's a great bistro up the street. Costs an arm and a leg… okay, no good putting thoughts in the evil vampire's head!"
"Actually, not here to catch a bite. I'm here to pick up some bait for a big, poufy fish."
"What's a 'pouf'?"
"Real question is what's the bait."
Xander saw the punch coming at his face but knew there was no way he was going to dodge it.
Xander saw a flash, and then he saw nothing.